Leapfrog Group will start to issue quality ratings for ambulatory and outpatient surgical services

For almost two decades, the nonprofit Leapfrog Group has graded the country’s hospitals based on patient safety and quality.

Now with the vast majority of surgeries in the U.S. performed in outpatient or ambulatory settings, the national safety watchdog is turning its eye there.

The Leapfrog Group has launched a new survey for ambulatory surgery centers to provide better independent information on the safety and quality of those settings. And for the first time, it has included questions about outpatient surgeries in its 2019 hospital survey, in addition to its traditional questions that focus on the quality and safety of inpatient care. Both surveys were available Monday.

The Leapfrog Group, which represents the country’s largest and most influential employers and purchasers of healthcare, has released hospital safety grades twice a year, based on self-reported hospital data. It scores hospitals between “A” and “F”.

Now, its new survey will be open for ambulatory surgery centers. While Leapfrog has publicly reported survey results for hospitals, the new outpatient and ambulatory surgery center results will not be publicly reported until the 2020 cycle of surveys, the group said. At that time, results will be publicly reported by facility on The Leapfrog Group’s website.

In the meantime, it will issue an aggregate report to the public on ambulatory surgery centers’ performance this year and individual facilities that participate will be given a customized benchmarking report, the group said.

Leapfrog has collected and publicly reported safety and quality information about inpatient care for 19 years. In 2018, a record-breaking 2,021 hospitals voluntarily participated in the survey, representing almost 70% of U.S. hospital beds. Critics of Leapfrog's safety grades have questioned its use of self-reported hospital data in calculating scores.

The Leapfrog Group said that more than 60% of surgeries are now being performed in outpatient units or ambulatory surgery centers, leading the organization to expand its data gathering and reporting beyond inpatient care.

"Health plans and purchasers rely on The Leapfrog Group for value-based purchasing and reporting to their enrollees and employees, and we are proud to be able to expand our ratings to cover outpatient surgery and ASCs," said Leah Binder, the group’s president and CEO.

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"By participating in the Leapfrog Hospital or ASC Surveys, hospitals, and ASCs alike can be recognized for their quality and safety," she said.

National experts developed the content of the new survey questions on outpatient and ambulatory quality and safety and they were extensively pilot tested before being published for the first time, the Leapfrog Group said. The two inaugural surveys for 2019 are now available for viewing.

Questions on the hospital survey related to outpatient procedures will closely align with those on the new ambulatory surgery center survey to allow purchasers and consumers to compare the same procedure, whether offered at a hospital or ambulatory center, Leapfrog said. Questions will focus on a range of topics including facility resources, staffing, volume and safety of procedures, patient safety practices and patient experience.

Ambulatory surgery centers or networks interested in reporting their data as part of the survey can contact the Leapfrog’s Help Desk to access the survey. Leapfrog will also host a free meeting on April 23 to provide ASC leaders and administrators with information.