New research reveals that one in 25 patients acquire an infection in the hospital – it's one reason more than 1,000 people die each day from preventable medical errors. In fact, medical errors remain the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to newly released data, despite progress, even some premier medical institutions are falling behind when it comes to patient safety.
The Spring 2014 update to The Leapfrog Group's (Leapfrog) Hospital Safety Score, which assigns A, B, C, D and F grades to more than 2,500 general hospitals nationwide based entirely on their ability to prevent errors, injuries and infections, shows that hospitals are making incremental improvements. The data reveals that nearly one-third of all hospitals have seen a 10 percent or higher improvement in performance since 2012. The majority of those "wins" are the result of hospitals improving their processes and safe practices – such as hand hygiene, improved staffing levels and training for nurses, and administering the correct antibiotics prior to surgery.
"The data tells us that more hospitals are working harder to create a safe environment, and that's good news for patients," said Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, which administers the Hospital Safety Score. "Since a ream of disappointing studies suggested that through 2010 progress in patient safety was virtually zero, the fact that we are seeing results now is notable. It's a reflection of the ability to galvanize change in healthcare transparency via the Hospital Safety Score and other efforts."
Still, Binder says, with 400,000 lives lost annually, progress is too slow for a problem this hazardous to Americans. "This spring we saw eight million people sign-up for health insurance via the Affordable Care Act, and as they launch a search for health care providers, we're urging them to put safety first and look for an 'A' hospital in their area."
The Spring 2014 data does reveal that some hospitals remain stagnant and continually rank as poor performers. Even more shocking is that there are a number of hospitals with national name recognition with poor safety records, receiving "Cs" and "Ds" in the Hospital Safety Score.
"While these hospitals often receive accolades for their surgical teams, state-of-the-art equipment and sought-after physicians, they don't make the grade when it comes to patient safety," added Binder. "An institution could have the best surgeons in the world, but if the aftercare is lacking and the patient develops an infection as a result, then the hospital has failed to protect its patient."
Additional Key Findings:
- Of the 2,522 hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score, 804 earned an "A," 668 earned a "B," 878 earned a "C," 150 earned a "D" and 22 earned an "F."
- Overall, there has been a 6.3-percent mean improvement in hospital performance since 2012.
- Most encouraging is that nearly one-third of hospitals demonstrated a 10 percent or higher improvement in their performance on the safety measures used in the score.
- 48 of 50 states scored have seen improvement in their mean scores since 2012. The exceptions are the District of Columbia and Wyoming.
- Five states had zero hospitals receiving an "A" in the Spring 2014 Score, including Alaska, District of Columbia, Idaho, Nebraska and Wyoming.
- Maine once again claimed the number-one spot for the state with the highest percentage of "A" hospitals, at 74 percent.
- Several states saw significant improvement in the percentage of hospitals receiving an "A" in 2014. They include New Mexico (0 percent in Fall 2013 to 14 percent in Spring 2014) and New Hampshire (8 percent in Fall 2013 to 31 percent in Spring 2014).
- 53 hospitals (or 2.2 percent) changed by two or more grades, showing either a significant improvement or significant decline.
The Hospital Safety Score is calculated by top patient safety experts, peer-reviewed, fully transparent and free to the public. It can be accessed online or via a free mobile app at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org. A full analysis of the data and methodology used is also available on the Hospital Safety Score website.