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Leapfrog Leader: Hospitals Experience 'Major Setback' in Patient Safety

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   May 09, 2023

The coronavirus pandemic compromised the ability of hospitals to work on patient safety, the president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group says.

During the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals lost ground on patient safety, says Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.

The Leapfrog Group recently released the watchdog organization's spring 2023 Hospital Safety Grades. There are fewer "A" grades and more "B" grades largely because of an increase in three hospital-acquired infections: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, central line-associated bloodstream infections, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections.

The pandemic compromised the ability of hospitals to work on patient safety, Binder says. "Hospitals had a great deal of difficulty managing a public health emergency while also maintaining vigilance on patient safety. They were somewhat overwhelmed and, in some cases, very overwhelmed by the response to the coronavirus pandemic, and that caused them to be unable to handle some of the important day-to-day business of running a hospital. What we need to do is make sure hospitals can be more resilient in the future, so they are able to manage both a public health emergency and their day-to-day business, which includes protecting the lives of patients."

Leapfrog also noted patient experience scores at hospitals declined, she says. "A hospital was not a great place to be during the pandemic. As a patient, you usually could not have your family visit. Frequently, there were either serious restrictions on visitors or no visitors allowed. That had a major impact on patient experience. It also had an impact on workforce experience—I have heard from many nurses that not having families in the room was demoralizing for them. They had no feedback, and they did not have the extra set of eyes that families provide when caring for patients."

Uncertainty associated with the pandemic along with changing rules and regulations created a stressful environment in hospitals, which had a negative impact on patient experience, Binder says. "What we saw from that is patients reported their experience declined. The declines we saw in patient experience were serious declines. Patients reported not being comfortable with the medications they were prescribed and poor nurse communication. There is research that correlates those kinds of patient experiences with outcomes. So, it is something that we must watch closely, and it is something we will be tracking as we look at the recovery from the pandemic."

In the spring 2023 Hospital Safety Grades, 29% of hospitals received an "A," 26% received a "B," 39% received a "C," 6% received a "D," and less than 1% received an "F." While the performance is similar to recent Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades, there was slippage, she says. "There are slightly more 'B' hospitals than there were in the last rounds and fewer 'A' hospitals. That is directly related to some of the challenges we saw in infection rates and other safety factors."

Binder says she expects improvement in the next round of Hospital Safety Grades. "We definitely have seen a major setback that has to be turned around immediately. That said, I am optimistic that hospitals will turn it around. They will improve. They know how to do it, and they want to do it."

Related: The Leapfrog Group: 33% of U.S. Hospitals Earn "A" Grade for Patient Safety

Christopher Cheney is the CMO editor at HealthLeaders.


In the spring 2023 Hospital Safety Grades released by The Leapfrog Group, there are fewer "A" grades and more "B" grades largely due to a spike in hospital-acquired infections.

Patient experience scores at hospitals also declined, according to The Leapfrog Group.

The president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group expects improvement in the next round of Hospital Safety Grades.

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