Group ranks Maine among best states in hospital safety

Eric Zelz | BDN
Note: The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Score grades hospitals on data related to how safe they are for patients. For more information, visit www.hospitalsafetyscore.org. SOURCE: Hospital Safety Score; The Leapfrog Group; Not on map: Alaska: 17%, Hawaii: 10%; Maryland is not ranked because they are not required to publicly report their hospital safety data.
Posted Nov. 28, 2012, at 7:01 p.m.
The Eastern Maine Medical Center complex in Bangor.
The Eastern Maine Medical Center complex in Bangor.
Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of the Maine Health Management Coalition
Courtesy photo
Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of the Maine Health Management Coalition

Maine hospitals scored second-highest in the nation for patient safety in a new report card from a nationally recognized nonprofit organization.

Eighty percent of hospitals in the state earned an “A” in the Hospital Safety Score ratings released Wednesday by the Leapfrog Group, a national patient safety group. Only Massachusetts, where 83 percent of hospitals earned an “A,” scored higher.

The letter grades reflect the risk that a patient could be harmed by a preventable medical error while hospitalized. At least 180,000 patients are killed every year from errors, accidents, injuries and infections in American hospitals, according to Leapfrog.

The grades are based on 26 measures of patient safety. Leapfrog assesses public data on measures including falls, bed sores and how consistently hospitals follow recommended treatment protocols, such as administering antibiotics to patients within an hour before surgery.

Leapfrog’s scores are part of a growing effort nationally to help consumers become better informed health care shoppers. The federal government also is looking more closely at patient safety data, making a push through Medicare and Medicaid to pay health care providers based on the quality of care they offer.

“Maine hospitals have worked hard to improve hospital safety for a number of years and their high ranking shows the results of their work,” Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO of the Maine Health Management Coalition, an employer-led group that includes hospitals and insurers, said in a press release.

In Maine, 16 hospitals won an “A” grade, including both Bangor hospitals and rural hospitals such as Cary Medical Center in Caribou and Miles Memorial Hospital in Damariscotta.

Three hospitals — Maine Medical Center in Portland, Franklin Memorial in Farmington and the Augusta campus of MaineGeneral — earned a “B.” The Waterville campus of MaineGeneral scored an “A.”

York Hospital earned the lowest grade, a “C” rating. A spokeswoman for the hospital said it since has confirmed with Leapfrog that it has a “B” grade, which Leapfrog disputed.

Much of Leapfrog’s data dates to 2009 through 2011, explained York Hospital spokeswoman Dawn Fernald. In March 2012, the hospital went live with a computerized prescribing system, a Leapfrog safety measure that the organization since has credited the hospital for, she said.

Leapfrog confirmed the “C” grade Wednesday. York Hospital reported to Leapfrog once the hospital initiated the prescribing system, but Leapfrog sent a follow-up survey that York never completed, according to the group’s public relations firm.

Some hospitals have said they suspected they were penalized for failing to participate in Leapfrog’s voluntary surveys, which the group incorporates in its assessments. Leapfrog has said participation has no bearing on a hospital’s grade.

The hospital scores announced Wednesday were the second round of rankings released by Leapfrog. In the first round, which came out in June, 70 percent of Maine hospitals earned an “A.”

Leapfrog tweaked its methodology, resulting in 103 hospitals that earned a “C” or lower in the first round winning an “A” this time around, according to Kaiser Health News.

Of the 2,618 hospitals nationally assigned a score, 790 earned an “A,” 678 earned a “B,” 1,004 earned a “C,” 121 earned a “D” and 25 earned an “F.”

Maryland hospitals were not included because they aren’t required to submit Medicare data under a special arrangement with the federal government.

The Leapfrog report followed a number of other hospital quality ratings this year from various groups, including Consumer Reports and the Joint Commission, a hospital accreditation organization. Health experts debate which measures best reflect patient care.

“We believe strongly that what gets measured should be reported publicly so consumers have information to make the best choices for their medical care,” Mitchell said.

Patient safety and quality ratings for Maine hospitals have been published online for several years on the Maine Health Management Coalition Foundation’s getbettermaine.org website.

To check a hospital’s Leapfrog Hospital Safety Score, visit www.hospitalsafetyscore.org.

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