Hospitals must respond to failing patient safety grades with action, not excuses

No hospital plans to find itself on the business end of a failing patient safety grade, but those that do should respond with a combination of accountability and transparency, according to Healthcare Finance News.

This spring, Stony Brook, New York's Stony Brook University Hospital was one of 15 providers to receive a failing grade from the Leapfrog Group after earning four consecutive Bs from 2013 to 2015. Despite being listed as high-quality on common conditions and mortality by the state Department of Health and a 68.44 patient satisfaction rating, Leapfrog rated the hospital poorly on numerous patient safety criteria, unplanned readmissions and emergency department timeliness, according to the article. Stony Brook, however, blames the grade on its misinterpretation of the electronic survey processes, which the officials said led to erroneous responses that dragged down the entire grade.

This approach is precisely the wrong response to a failing grade, said Rita Numerof, president of healthcare strategy consulting firm Numerof & Associates. "Even if you don't like the measures, and there's lots of complexity behind the measures and they're far from perfect, knowing that you still have to perform against them," she told Healthcare Finance News. "Taking this as a wake-up call and a lesson and recognizing that there is work to be done would be really helpful. You have to get your own house in order and to do that acknowledging mistakes is a starting point."

Conversely, the article noted, Pennsylvania's Clarion Hospital received its fourth failing grade from Leapfrog and has since committed to improving on patient safety, vowing to up their grade within the next quarter. Similarly while Newark, New Jersey's Saint Michael's Medical Center blamed its tumbling scores in part on outdated data, leaders stressed that they are working to correct the hospital's problems by reforming its protocols for infections and computerized physician order entry systems.

While some have criticized hospital-ranking organizations such as Leapfrog for broad variation in results from company to company, recent research found imitating the highest-scoring hospitals could save 33,000 lives annually, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

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