Most hospitals fall short on ICU staffing standards

U.S. hospitals continue to fall short on implementing protocols known to reduce deaths in intensive care units (ICUs), according to a new report from the Leapfrog Group.

Of the hospitals responding to the Leapfrog Group’s 2015 survey, only 47 percent meet the group’s ICU staffing standards, which call for at least one board-certified intensivist to provide care exclusively in the ICU and be available eight hours a day and seven days a week, and for those intensivists to return calls within five minutes 95 percent of the time.

While the majority of hospitals nationwide fell short on the Leapfrog standards, individual states performed both better and worse. Arizona had the highest proportion of reporting hopsitals that met the standards (87 percent), while six more states had at least 60 percent of hospitals in compliance. Ten states, however, reported less than 30 percent of hospitals met the standard.

While still indicating a minority, the numbers are a marked improvement from 2007, when only 30 percent of hospitals met the standard. This trend continues from last year, when Leapfrog also found compliance with ICU standards had increased, FierceHealthcare previously reported. It also comes shortly after a study found noise levels in ICUs are far above recommended levels. Transparency, however, remains an issue for ICUs, as numerous hospitals would not release staffing information for their ICUs, leaving Leapfrog with no other means of assessing staffing levels.

“Hospital quality and cost information is vital to enabling individuals to make the best choices for their health,” Kristin Torres Mowat, senior vice president of plan development and data operations at Castlight Health, said in a statement. “Leapfrog’s data illustrates how essential it is to report ICU physician staffing. Proper intensivist staffing is crucial to the proper care of patients with the most critical need. This study and Leapfrog’s work are important to driving visibility and change in hospital practices, which will ultimately lead to better patient care.”

- here’s the report

- read the statement