Only three Kansas City area hospitals received grades of A in the latest hospital safety report card issued by The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit group founded by large employers that aims to improve hospital quality and safety.
The three – Belton Regional Medical Center, Research Medical Center and Shawnee Mission Medical Center – were among 19 area hospitals surveyed by Leapfrog. Five of the hospitals received grades of B and the rest got C’s.
The grades are based on 28 weighted measures that assess hospitals’ ability to prevent errors, injuries and infections. Some health experts say that 4 percent of patients acquire infections in hospitals. And Leapfrog says as many as 1,000 patients die each day in the United States because of preventable hospital errors.
The new survey of 2,520 general hospitals across the U.S. updates an earlier April survey. In the new survey, 31 percent of the hospitals nationwide earned an A, 27 percent got a B, 34 percent received a C, 6 percent got a D and 1 percent earned an F.
“While the data tells us that hospitals are improving their safe practices, it’s concerning to see them moving backwards on any measure,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, said in a statement.
“Patients enter a hospital trusting they’re in a safe place, but with 41 percent of hospitals receiving a ‘C,’ ‘D’ or ‘F’ grade, it’s clear that some hospitals are safer than others.”
Hospitals showed improvement on all 15 “process” measures, such as hand hygiene and physician staffing in intensive care units, according to Leapfrog. But the group said the data also showed a lack of progress on outcomes, such as a sponge or tool left in a patient’s body.
The data have limitations; much of it, for instance, is based on information that’s a couple of years old. And hospitals that received top grades are not immune to error. Leapfrog noted, for example, that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas received an A based on it past performance but recently mishandled the diagnosis of an Ebola patient who later died.
Leapfrog is one of many private organizations that compile hospital safety information. The federal government does too; the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services posts safety information on its Hospital Comparewebsite, although it has major limitations.
The groups often use different measures of safety, so hospitals that rank high in some lists rank low in others.
"I think as the system changes, which it clearly is in so many ways, we're going to continue to see more focus on reporting of information about outcomes, reporting of information about errors that might happen, reporting of information about quality measures," said Tom Bell, president and CEO of the Kansas Hospital Association.
"And to me, the main goal of all of us, whether you're a federal regulator or policymaker or hospital CEO or physician or payer - the payers are very much engaged in this kind of discussion as well - ought to be, 'Let's coalesce around a set of measures and the best way to report those measures so that people can make sense of all this stuff,'" Bell said.
Not included in Leapfrog’s survey are children’s hospitals, critical access hospitals, military and veteran’s hospitals, hospitals in Maryland and small hospitals, none of which provide the data needed to compile the safety scores.
Neither Missouri nor Kansas fared particularly well based on their percentage of hospitals that received grades of A. Missouri ranked 29th by that standard, with only 11 of 60 hospitals receiving an A. Kansas ranked 35th, with only 4 of 32 hospitals earning the top grade.
Kansas, however, improved from a year earlier, when it ranked No. 44. Missouri’s ranking remained unchanged.
The top state, again based on percentage of hospitals receiving an A, was Maine, followed by Massachusetts and Virginia. Tied for worst were North Dakota and the District of Columbia, then Utah, Oklahoma and Mississippi.
Heartland Health Monitor, based at KCUR 89.3 Public Media in Kansas City, reports on health issues in the Midwest.