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Leah Binder: An Amiable Watchdog for Hospital Quality, Safety

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2010

The Leapfrog Group is founded, in part, on the belief that American healthcare remains "far below obtainable levels of basic safety, quality, and overall customer value." Binder conveys that message clearly. But she doesn't just carp about what's wrong with healthcare; she talks about how to effect change. One example is the partnerships Leapfrog has built with organizations and their supporters, including the March of Dimes, which is currently working with Leapfrog to build awareness and educate providers and patients about the dangers of scheduling elective deliveries for babies before the 39th completed week of gestation, a measure that Leapfrog added to its hospital survey in 2009.

"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?' And it's really impressive. It's a change and a new way of thinking about how we all contribute to improving healthcare," she says.

"We need to ensure that our survey's helpful in making the change. Because our survey is not about an interesting study that sits on someone's shelf. Our survey is supposed to be a dynamic way for us to make real change in a fast way—a fast leap forward."

Like many of the people her organization represents, Binder has had both positive and negative encounters with the healthcare system. She says her father was treated with compassion and received quality care while hospitalized toward the end of his life. Later, the newborn she'd named after her father underwent surgery that resulted in a medical error.

"I have had enough experience with hospitals to realize how important they are, how much I trust in them, and it creates great passion in me that I want them to perform well. Because I don't place that trust in just anything. I expect them to be the best. And all of us as Americans pay for them to be the best. And they aren't always the best."

Although Binder's relationship with the industry isn't always contentious, it's not always warm and fuzzy, either. "I think we're pretty tough and we'll stay tough. But I also understand the challenges that they face and I have a lot of admiration for hospitals. Not only the hospitals that have managed to do extremely well in this tough environment, but the hospitals that have many challenges and don't always do that well, but still manage to be transparent and give it their all," she says.

"Some of our biggest champions are hospital leaders. They have given us ideas, they have given us advice, they've given us great stories in how innovative they've been in figuring out ways to get to zero on infections or engage nursing staff more to reduce preventable injuries—just amazing stories."

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