Saint Anthony Hospital sues Leapfrog Group over inaccurate patient safety grade

justice scales and gavel
A hospital in Chicago filed suit to prevent Leapfrog Group from publishing its patient safety score. (Getty/BrianAJackson)

A Chicago hospital has sued the Leapfrog Group, alleging that the organization used inaccurate information when lowering its score in its patient safety grades released last week. 

Saint Anthony Hospital, a safety-net facility, filed a complaint (PDF) in Cook County, Illinois Circuit Court, seeking to have the court force Leapfrog to retract its grade. The hospital said in the filing that the group lowered its grade from an "A" to a "C" using information it knew to be inaccurate. 

"If Saint Anthony suffers the wrong of having a false grade published, it will not be able to effectively market its high-quality and safe practices or distinguish itself from other area hospitals," the hospital said in the complaint. "This would be significant harm to Saint Anthony and impair its ability to operate as a safety-net hospital focused on those that are the most vulnerable in the community." 

The hospital asked (PDF) Leapfrog not to publish its score, according to a court filing dated Oct. 30. A search on Leapfrog's patient safety grades on Nov. 10 did not include results for Saint Anthony Hospital.  

The fall version of the twice-yearly grades was released on Oct. 31, and more than a third of hospitals in the ratings earned a middling score. 

RELATED: Leapfrog gives nearly 1,000 hospitals a 'C' for patient safety, but a handful of states are making significant strides

Critics of Leapfrog's rating system have called into question its reliance on self-reported safety data. Hospitals that self-reported compliance with Leapfrog's Safe Practices did not necessarily have lower hospital-acquired infection rates or lower federal readmission penalties, a University of Michigan study found. 

In the complaint, Saint Anthony said that it learned in mid-October that it was going to earn a "C" grade from Leapfrog. When it contacted Leapfrog Group to learn why its grade had dropped, the organization said it lost points because it only electronically prescribes medications between 50% and 74% of the time. 

RELATED: Most hospitals fall short on ICU staffing standards 

Saint Anthony argues it actually uses electronic prescribing at least 95% of the time, and it had provided that data to Leapfrog. It tried to contact to Leapfrog multiple times throughout the rest of October, according to the complaint, but the group never assured the hospital that it would adjust the grade. 

Saint Anthony said in the complaint that it does not want Leapfrog to retract other hospitals' rankings or to stop publishing safety grades overall, just that its "false" grade not be posted, according to the complaint.