Leapfrog Group: Error-prone hospitals are more expensive

For years, the Leapfrog Group has tried to affix levels of quality to hospitals through a variety of surveys and scoring methodologies. But the organization has recently changed tack and has put a price on errors in hospital settings, reported MedCity News.

According to Leapfrog, the average "tax" connected to hospital errors for a medium-sized employer group with 10,000 covered lives is $6.9 million a year--assuming 1,000 admissions occur, MedCity News reported. However, that cost is higher if patients are treated at hospitals more prone to errors: $7.7 million. But if the patient is treated at a high-quality hospital with fewer errors, the cost is only about $5.9 million, based on Leapfrog's reporting methodology.

"It's counterintuitive and outrageous, but you will pay a lot more for hospitals that have more errors, accidents and infections," said Leapfrog Group Chief Executive Officer and President Leah Binder in a statement. "Errors aren't typically marked as a line item on a bill--but purchasers and consumers are paying millions of dollars for them, and we've substantiated it with our research."

Leapfrog developed its methodology by studying the rate of adverse events among 26 safety measures for which national data is available. It also used the letter grades it had assigned to hospitals through its report cards to correlate costs and rates of medical errors.

Leapfrog estimated that a patient admitted to a hospital with a "C" grade pays an average surcharge of $7,780 due to medical errors. However, a patient admitted and treated at an "A" hospital pays an average surcharge of $5,935-- suggesting that cost increases correlated to medical errors are endemic in U.S. hospitals.

"It is worth noting that even 'A' hospitals have patient safety challenges and are
not exempt from this hidden surcharge." Leapfrog noted in the white paper it disseminated to explain its methodology for determining the costs associated with errors.

To learn more:
- read the MedCity News article
- check out the LeapFrog white paper (.pdf)
- here's the Leapfrog announcement