Less than 20 percent of Georgia hospitals earned an “A” grade on patient safety in the latest ratings from the Leapfrog Group.
The 17.6 percent figure put Georgia in 40th place among states ranked on percentages of top-safety hospitals.
The ratings from Leapfrog, a patient safety organization founded by employers, are issued semi-annually, in fall and spring. In the latest fall survey, Georgia came in 36th among states in the overall percentage of top-performing hospitals.
The Leapfrog Group’s rankings are part of the push to analyze and report publicly on the comparative quality of medical care.
Leapfrog gives “A” through “F” grades to more than 2,600 hospitals based on how they prevent medical errors, injuries, accidents and infections. Not all hospitals are graded: Critical access hospitals and pediatric facilities are excluded because of insufficient data.
East Georgia Regional Medical Center was the only hospital rated in the immediate area and received a “C” grade. In Savannah, Memorial University Medical Center, Candler Hospital and St. Joseph’s Hospital all earned “C” grades.
Leapfrog said that since the ratings began in 2012, there have been significant strides in improving patient safety, such as a 21 percent decline in medical conditions acquired in hospitals; increased use and improved function of computerized systems through which doctors order care; and millions of cases in which potential harm to patients was averted.
Still, safety problems, including patient injuries, accidents and infections, continue to occur regularly in hospitals. More than 1,000 people a day are estimated to die from preventable errors, making this the third-leading cause of death in America.
“When we launched the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade in 2012, our goal was to alert consumers to the hazards involved in a hospital stay and help them choose the safest option. We also hoped to galvanize hospitals to make safety the first priority day in and day out,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, said in a statement.
”So far, we’ve been pleased with the increase in public awareness and hospitals’ commitment to solving this terrible problem. But we need to accelerate the pace of change, because too many people are still getting harmed or killed.”
The five states with the highest percentage of “A” hospitals this spring were Maine, Hawaii, Oregon, Wisconsin and Idaho. The bottom five were Nevada, Alaska, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and North Dakota.
The 13 hospitals earning an “A’’ in Georgia included three Piedmont Healthcare facilities, four HCA hospitals, and two operated by WellStar Health System.
One Georgia hospital has received straight “A’s” since the ratings began in 2012: Gordon Hospital in Calhoun.
No Georgia hospital got an “F” grade.
Leapfrog, in compiling the grades, used publicly available data from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey and Health Information Technology Supplement.
Earl Rogers, the president of the Georgia Hospital Association, said in a statement Wednesday that his organization “applauds the tremendous effort from Georgia hospitals and health care providers to improve patient safety and quality of care and provide meaningful information about quality for their communities.”
“We encourage health care consumers to research hospital quality and patient safety information,” Rogers said. “In so doing, it is important to note hospitals can perform well in one ranking and score poorly in another because different ranking organizations use different quality measures, performance data and methodologies to calculate scores.
The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is one of several rankings patients can consider when selecting a hospital, Rogers said. “When choosing a health care provider, we encourage patients and families to use all available ranking tools as well as talking with friends and family and consulting with doctors, nurses and other practitioners.”
Beth Stephens of consumer advocacy organization Georgia Watch said that her group has encouraged hospitals in Georgia “to make patient safety a top priority and to promote awareness among consumers that information is out there to help them make health care decisions,”
“We appreciate the hospitals that voluntarily participate every year in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey to provide transparent information about their safety practices and outcomes to consumers,” Stephens said. “It was disappointing to see that only 13 out of the 74 hospitals in Georgia rated by the Leapfrog Group received an “A” grade.”
She said six out of 21 hospitals in the metro Atlanta region received a “B” in the Spring 2017 grades, but none scored an “A.” “However, we applaud Eastside Medical Center, Emory University Hospital and Northside Hospital for their improvements from a “C” grade in Fall 2016 to a “B” in the most recent ratings.”