Leah Binder: An Amiable Watchdog for Hospital Quality, Safety

Gienna Shaw, December 2, 2010

"Community members, leaders, parents, and grandparents are coming together and walking into hospitals and sitting down with doctors and CEOs and saying, 'What are you going to do to improve things?'"

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is Leah Binder's story.

Watchdog organizations don't always have the best relationships with those they are watching. When asked to describe her relationship with healthcare providers and leaders, Leah Binder, CEO of The Leapfrog Group, deadpans the answer. "Some of my best friends are in hospitals," she says. She pauses and then laughs. "I promise," she says. "Some of them don't like me but I will tell you that some of them do."

The Leapfrog Group, a consortium of healthcare purchasers, uses survey data and public reporting on quality measures such as central line infection rates to help consumers and employers compare hospitals' safety, quality, and efficiency. It also recognizes and rewards hospitals that take steps to reduce preventable medical errors and that meet its tough standards for adoption of quality improvement tools such as computerized physician order entry. 

In a Leapfrog study earlier this fall, 214 hospitals used a Web-based simulator to see if their CPOE systems would catch common medication errors, including potentially fatal errors. The CPOE systems on average missed half of the routine medication errors and a third of the potentially fatal errors. Leapfrog also found that nearly all of the 102 hospitals that repeated the test improved in one or more medication categories. Leapfrog has issued testing guidelines and has developed a tool to help organizations test their CPOE systems.

"It's so extraordinary to me, but Leapfrog seems to be the only one out there, at least in the public policy world, with a priority on assuring that health information technology is monitored over time. It seems like such an obvious thing that it's amazing that we have to even say it but we know from [our survey that] hospitals don't always know that when they buy technology it's not plug and play. It's something they have to monitor and carefully watch over time or else they can't be sure it's safe."


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