Leapfrog Group: Risk of avoidable death is 50% higher in poor-performing hospitals

If all U.S. hospitals would improve to the A level, 33,000 lives could be saved annually, the Washington-based Leapfrog Group said Monday.


Patients who go to a poorly performing hospital have a 50 percent higher chance of dying from a preventable error than those who choose one earning an “A” on the Leapfrog Group‘s newest safety report card. If all U.S. hospitals would improve to the A level, 33,000 lives could be saved annually, the Washington-based organization said Monday.

Even so, the latest update to the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score identified 206,000 avoidable deaths a year — and that’s probably an underestimate, since Leapfrog only analyzed “a subset of avoidable harms” that patients may endure.

“Even an A hospital is not perfectly safe, and even an A hospital still makes mistakes,” said Erica Mobley, Leapfrog’s director of communications and development.

About 31 percent of hospitals earned an A on the Hospital Safety Score measure, more than in any previous Leapfrog survey. That’s significant because it’s slightly more difficult than in the past to earn an A because of a methodology change.

Leapfrog this time around dropped Medicare Surgical Care Improvement Project data from its analysis because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services no longer requires reporting on these measures. “Most hospitals had topped out,” Mobley said. Instead, the Leapfrog survey now includes five Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) measures, plus statistics on MRSA and C. difficile infections.

A quarter of all hospitals got a B, while the largest group, 37 percent, scored a C. Just 6 percent of the more than 2,500 hospitals that reported data got a D, and 1 percent failed.

Breaking it down by state, the safest clusters of hospitals seem to be in New England. Vermont had the highest percentage of “A” hospitals, 83 percent, though just six hospitals were included in the survey. After four straight times in the top spot, Maine slipped to second place, tied with Rhode Island at 62.5 percent. Massachusetts was fourth.

Sparsely populated states also scored at the bottom of the list, possibly because of their small sample sizes. Neither Alaska nor Wyoming had a single facility earn an A. The same goes for the District of Columbia.

Most of the largest states, including  California, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida, were below the national average in terms of A grades.

Photos: Flickr user tv’s Spatch, The Leapfrog Group