A significant defect in this and other hospital quality ranking efforts is their failure to reflect systemic safety issues so serious, that recent federal or state investigations have raised questioned about whether a hospital should continue to receive federal Medicare or Medicaid payments.
For example, Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire received an A in the Leapfrog score, up from a B last fall. But federal reports last year noted lax infection control practices that may have led to a technician allegedly infecting some three dozen Exeter patients with hepatitis C.
Parkland Hospital in Dallas came close to losing hundreds of millions in annual Medicare payments after a series of federal investigations revealed critical quality issues in 2011 and 2012. Yet Leapfrog's scorecard gives Parkland an A, up from a B last fall.
Binder acknowledged the issue. Leapfrog is "probably the nation's leading advocate for the availability of more and better data," but, she says, much of what goes wrong in hospitals is not yet publicly reported. "From what we do have, we can say this hospital has performed well or not, but obviously, it's missing some key elements."
She added consumers should not, even with a scoring system like Leapfrog's, "assume any hospital is perfectly safe. There's lots we can't measure."
The Leapfrog Group's score is probably the most controversial scorecard of its type because of the perceived pejorative tone of a C, D, or F grade, as opposed to other hospital ranking systems that only highlight the "best" hospitals. Last year, numerous hospitals and health system trade organizations blasted the group for what it said was a biased methodology that favored hospitals that participated in Leapfrog's own separate and voluntary reporting system.