Oct. 23—The number of hospitals given a failing grade as part of a national safety scorecard increased 27 percent in the past year.

The Leapfrog Group, a not-for-profit healthcare analysis organization funded by large employers, found little overall improvement in the safety performance of the 2,539 hospitals it ranked using an “A” through “F” scale. Among the general hospitals issued a score, 813 earned an “A,” 661 earned a “B,” 893 earned a “C,” 150 earned a “D” and 22 earned an “F.”

Among the changes identified in the report was a jump in “F”-ranked hospitals from 16 last year to 22 in the latest report.

“There is certainly a troubling trend,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, said in a call with reporters regarding the increase in “F”-ranked hospitals.

However, the organization identified no common cause for the low grades among the failing hospitals and there was no apparent trend among the 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data used to produce a single safety rating grade—called the Hospital Safety Score.

The scores, data and methodology are available free online to the public at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org

Some individual hospitals (3.5 percent) achieved “dramatic” improvements of two or more grade levels, the report card found. The best-performing health systems included Kaiser Permanente and Sentara, in which all of their hospitals received an “A.”

The only measure used to calculate the overall scores on which there was broad improvement was on hospital adoption of computerized provider order entry.  The Leapfrog leaders credited that improvement to federal policies aimed at improving hospital technology.

The states with the smallest percentage of “A” hospitals include New Hampshire, Arkansas, Nebraska and New Mexico. No hospitals in New Mexico or the District of Columbia received an “A” grade. Eighty percent of Maine hospitals received an “A”—the highest percentage of “A” hospitals among the states. 

The Leapfrog scores are among a growing number of national hospital scorecards, but the Leapfrog scorecard is the only one focused solely on safety. Binder argued for the primacy of the Leapfrog data because recent research indicates patient safety remains a large challenge for hospitals. Specifically, she cited a September literature review in the Journal of Patient Safety that concluded up to 440,000 patients die annually from preventable hospital errors.

Publication Date: Wednesday, October 23, 2013