Despite hospital safety process improvements, outcomes backslide

The fall 2014 update to Leapfrog's Hospital Safety Score reveals a mixed bag of news about U.S. hospitals. Overall, of the 2,520 hospitals scored, 790 earned an "A," 688 earned a "B," 868 earned a "C," 148 earned a "D" and 26 earned an "F." In addition, several states moved up into the "A" rankings, including Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia and New Jersey, according to an announcement.

Encouragingly, compared to the spring 2014 grades, hospitals showed statistically significant improvement on all 15 process measures, including hand hygiene, physician staffing in intensive care units (ICUs) and medication reconciliation.

However, of the 13 "outcome" measures tracked, only one--preventing central line–associated bloodstream infections in ICUs--showed significant improvement since the spring report, while rates of some other hospital-acquired infections increased.

"While the data tells us that hospitals are improving their safe practices, it's concerning to see them moving backwards on any measure. Patients enter a hospital trusting they're in a safe place, but with 41 percent of hospitals receiving a 'C,' 'D' or 'F' grade, it's clear that some hospitals are safer than others," Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, the not-for-profit organization that administers the Hospital Safety Score, said in the announcement. 

Binder also noted that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, which has been under scrutiny for its recent mishandling of Ebola cases, received an "A" grade on the fall 2014 Hospital Safety Score for its past performance on safety measures.

"Though we don't have much data on infectious diseases specifically, such as Ebola, we know that some hospitals are much better than others at preventing harm. Yet even "A" hospitals make mistakes, and sometimes patients are harmed," Binder said. "The recent mishandling of Ebola cases proves that as a country, our hospitals must work harder to become prepared for this and any future threats," she added.

To learn more:
- read the announcement