This article appeared in Kaiser Health News on April 19, 2017.
By Chad Terhune
Nearly half of California hospitals received a grade of C or lower for patient safety on a national report card aimed at prodding medical centers to do more to prevent injuries and deaths.
The Leapfrog Group, an employer-backed nonprofit group focused on health care quality, issued its latest scores last week. The report card is part of an effort to make consumers and employers aware of how their hospitals perform on key quality measures, so they can make better-informed health care decisions. The scores are updated twice a year, in spring and fall.
After steady improvement in recent years, California hospitals lost ground in last week’s report card. Two years ago, 37 percent of California hospitals received a C, D or F grade. That increased to 46 percent of the 271 California hospitals rated in the most recent report.
Many California hospitals still struggle to reduce preventable medical errors and infections in patients, despite industrywide efforts to remedy those problems. California accounted for 6 of the 10 hospitals nationwide that received an F grade.
California public health officials track a wide assortment of patient infections that can be acquired during a hospital stay. A recent state report noted progress in some areas, while other issues have been harder to address.
From 2014 to 2015, 56 California hospitals achieved “significant improvement” in preventing certain infections, including ones in the blood and those resulting from surgery, according to the California Department of Public Health. But diarrheal infections in California hospitals have increased 8 percent above a national benchmark since 2011.
The state has created an interactive map where the public can check infection rates by hospital.
Leapfrog, which has issued hospital scores in California and nationwide since 2012, analyzes information it collects as well as data reported to Medicare. Erica Mobley, a Leapfrog spokeswoman, said the group’s methodology compares all hospitals to each other on a national scale, so a mix of factors could be responsible for the lower scores statewide.
“This could represent California hospitals’ performance slipping in comparison to their peers across the country or could also mean that they may be staying constant in their performance while other hospitals are progressing,” Mobley said.
The percentage of hospitals in the Golden State that got the top rating also decreased in Leapfrog’s latest analysis. Twenty-five percent of California hospitals, 68 facilities, earned an A grade this year, compared to 43 percent, or 104, in 2015.
California ranked 28th nationally in the percentage of A-rated hospitals. More than half of the hospitals in states such as Oregon, North Carolina and Massachusetts achieved the highest score.
In Leapfrog’s report card, some performance measures are risk-adjusted for patient severity and income so hospitals aren’t penalized for admitting sicker, poorer patients.