Leapfrog's 'License Fees' for Promoting Hospital Scores Rankle
Binder reiterated that a nine-member panel of national hospital safety experts decided on the 26 measure sets based on "strength of evidence and impact to the patient." They didn't even pick all Leapfrog measures, just those that "met their standards," she says. "I will be interested to see AHA release a new statement and give us a new round of publicity for the score!"
Binder forwarded Leapfrog's licensing fee materials, which say the cost is $5,000 for hospitals with 300 or fewer beds and $12,500 for hospitals with 301 or more beds through November, 2012, when a new annual fee will apply.
A hospital doesn't need a license to announce its grade to staff, the board, and others and grades may be used in press releases and on web sites. But if hospitals want to use their scores in a paid media ad, marketing materials or signs, they have to pay.
The license does not entitle hospitals to publish other hospitals' scores, and may only be used for the hospital that received the grade. They "must not state or imply that the Hospital Safety Score measures or describes any other quality, e.g., patient satisfaction, quality of care provided, overall performance, etc."
I'm not a statistician, so I guess I'll have to wait for the AHA or another hospital group to explain why Leapfrog's methodology favors Leapfrog participating hospitals or why Leapfrog is wrong to sell hospitals the rights to use this particular score for promotion. It occurs to me that maybe the hospitals' protests are just part of the normal five-stage grieving process, starting with denial.
When HealthGrades launched hospital scores a decade or so ago, "Initially there was—let's call it angst—around information that's being made publicly available," says Pete Sheehan, HealthGrades' director of hospital products and internal advocacy.
However, he says, "I think we've also seen there is a lot of power in making this information public and in moving quality in a path that benefits patients... It actually brings down the cost of care if you do quality correctly."
U.S. News & World Report could not be reached for comment.
While I wait for some resolution to the Leapfrog dustup, I'll be busy here with my e-mail, cleaning out the many dozens of press releases from hospitals across the country that want to boast to the world that they got a Leapfrog A because they're safer.
Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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