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In Era Of Increased Competition, Hospitals Fret Over Ratings

By Kaiser Health News  
   December 11, 2017

Leapfrog Group called the lawsuit from Saint Anthony's Hospital an 'eleventh hour gambit to turn back the clock on a disappointing safety grade based.'

This article first appeared December 11, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Jenny Gold

CHICAGO — For two years, Saint Anthony Hospital here has celebrated its top-rated “A” grade from the national Leapfrog Group that evaluates hospital safety records. But this fall, when executives opened a preview of their score, they got an unwelcome surprise: a “C.”

Hospitals take their ratings seriously, despite hospital industry experts’ skepticism about their scientific methodology and studies showing that scores may not have a huge influence on patient behavior. In a highly competitive market, no one wants to be a “C”-rated safety hospital any more than a “C”-rated restaurant for cleanliness.

So, the hospital didn’t take its new grade sitting down. It sued the ratings group for defamation, alleging that the grade was based on data that Leapfrog knew to be inaccurate.

“If Leapfrog publishes a ‘C’ grade for Saint Anthony as part of its Fall 2017 Hospital Survey Grades, it will erase years of improvements at the hospital and irreparably degrade the public perception of the hospital,” according to the complaint, which was filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Ill. “Saint Anthony competes with other hospitals in the immediate area, including one down the street, and one of the most important ways Saint Anthony recently has been able to distinguish itself is the high safety grades it receives from Leapfrog.”

In a response filed to the court on Tuesday, Leapfrog called Saint Anthony’s lawsuit an "eleventh hour gambit to turn back the clock on a disappointing safety grade based in part on the data that [the hospital] itself provided and certified, and which Leapfrog simply used in accordance with its long-established processes."

Leapfrog is one of a number of organizations, including U.S. News and World Report, Healthgrades and Consumer Reports, that score hospitals based on whether they meet certain quality measures. Based in Washington, D.C., Leapfrog’s scores are a combination of 27 measures of quality from government data and an independent survey to evaluate things like infections, deaths among surgical patients and how well doctors communicate.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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