Hospitals make progress on reducing infection rates but still fall short on patient experience, Leapfrog reports

U.S. hospitals made gains to reduce healthcare-acquired infections (HAIs) but saw patient experiences further deteriorate in the latest release of an independent watchdog’s twice-yearly safety report.

According to The Leapfrog Group, the sector has significantly reduced the incidences of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTIs) after reaching five-year highs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically, 66% of the almost 3,000 general hospitals polled by the group improved their performance on at least one of the three HAIs. Nineteen percent improved across all three of the infection measures, while 16% either worsened or made no improvement.

“Now that we have pre- and post-pandemic data for patient safety measures, we are encouraged by the improvement in infections and applaud hospitals for reversing the disturbing infection spike we saw during the pandemic,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a release.

At the same time, Leapfrog found a “deeply concerning” continuation of the patient experience declines spotted by the group in its earlier pandemic-era reports, Binder said.

Five different patient-reported measures describing their experiences during a hospital visit declined nationwide for a second consecutive year, Leapfrog reported, and every individual state saw a “significant decline” within the category from fall 2021 to fall 2023. These dips were the most severe in the “communication about medicines” and “responsiveness of hospital staff” measures, each of which the group noted are correlated with preventable medical errors according to medical studies.

“In talking with hospital leaders, we believe staffing shortages are one key reason for the continued decline,” Binder said. “Many hospitals are innovating to help make the patient experience better, which is critical because these results are disheartening and unsustainable.” 

Leapfrog’s twice-annual reports assessed more than 30 patient safety measures and component measures compiled from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Leapfrog’s hospital surveys for reporting periods as far back as July 2019.

The latest iteration awarded 30% of hospitals an “A” letter grade, 24% a “B,” 39% a “C,” 7% a “D” and less than 1% an “F.” Utah had more “A” hospitals than any other state, while Vermont, Wyoming, Delaware, Washington, D.C., and North Dakota didn’t have a single hospital that received top marks.

The full ratings, a hospital lookup tool and information on Leapfrog’s methodology are available for free on the group’s website.