Leapfrog gives more than 1,000 hospitals a 'C' or worse for safety; infection control a hurdle for low-scoring facilities

Patient and nurse in hospital
Leapfrog Group has released the first update to its Safety Grades for 2018. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Leapfrog Group gave more than 1,000 hospitals a "C" or worse score in the latest update to its Patient Safety Grades, with infection control a top pain point for a number of facilities that lag behind.

Released twice a year, the report includes hospital safety scores issued by Leapfrog between "A" and "F." The group awarded 879 "C" grades, the largest group, 145 "D" grades and 22 "F" grades. In addition, 750 hospitals were awarded an "A" and 683 were given a "B" grade.

Leah Binder, CEO of Leapfrog, told FierceHealthcare that each low-scoring hospital faces its own challenges, but that the infection control measures outlined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is one area where some hospitals struggle consistently.

Overall, she sees signs of improvement, she said. For instance, five hospitals that earned an "A" for this round of grades previously earned an "F," according to Leapfrog, and 46 facilities earned their first "A" scores this spring. This suggests hospitals taking their scores seriously and making improvements, Binder said.

"I think it's really encouraging to see hospitals achieving real improvement in safety," Binder said. "It shows leadership and commitment and passion and a 24-hour-a-day, roll-up-your-sleeves never-ending quest for safety." 

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Critics of Leapfrog's safety grades have questioned its use of self-reported hospital data in calculating scores. Researchers at the University of Michigan dived into Leapfrog's data and found that hospitals which reported high compliance with the group's Safe Practices did not necessarily have lower infection rates or lower federal penalties for readmissions. 

An example, according to the researchers, is that hospitals can report that they have certain hand hygiene protocols in place, but that doesn't include figures on how often clinicians are actually washing their hands. 

Leapfrog said in response to the study that hospitals who try to game their grading system are "generally frustrated" by the effort. 

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

Leapfrog's latest report also shows some improvement at the state level. Maryland, which was included in Leapfrog's grades for the first time in the fall, climbed out of the bottom in this update, and Washington, D.C., saw its first "A" hospital score since 2013 for Sibley Memorial Hospital. 

North Dakota, Delaware and Alaska tied for the lowest state ranking, with no hospitals earning an "A" grade. 

The top-ranking states include Hawaii, Idaho, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia.

"Patient safety is a team sport, within a hospital, within a state, within a community, within a region," Binder said. "It's really about everyone working together, and where we see people working together, we see progress."