Most Ky. hospitals got an average patient safety score, one failed; low scoring hospitals have increased risk of “avoidable death”

The Leapfrog Group Hospital Safety Grade website is easy to use and offers
information on 52 Kentucky hospitals.
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By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

For the second grading period in a row, a nonprofit group that rates hospitals has given Cs to most of the 52 Kentucky hospitals it rated; and for the first time since 2015, one hospital got an F, along with only nine other hospitals nationwide. In the percentage of hospitals with A grades, Kentucky continues to rank 33rd among the states.

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., rated more than 2,600 hospitals. Most of Kentucky’s 129 hospitals were not rated, since rural hospitals with “critical access” status don’t have to report quality measures to the federal government.

Leapfrog gave As to 11 Kentucky hospitals, or nearly 21% of those graded, lower than the national average of 32%. It gave Bs to 10, Cs to 25 , Ds to 5 and an F to 1. With the exception of the one failing grade, these numbers are similar to the fall report.

Methodist Hospital of Henderson was one of only nine hospitals nationwide that got a failing grade, putting it in the bottom 1% of hospitals scored. Leapfrog shows that the hospital’s score has dropped steadily since the spring of 2016 when it got an A; that was followed by two Bs, two Cs, a D and an F.

The twice-yearly grades are calculated using 28 performance measures of patient safety that indicate how well hospitals protect patients from preventable medical errors, accidents, infections and injuries. The report uses data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Leapfrog’s own survey, and other supplemental data sources. Hospitals are only graded if they have submitted adequate data for evaluation.

The Leapfrog site offers details on each of the measures under headings titled infections, problems with surgery, practices to prevent errors, safety problems, doctors, nurses & hospital staff. It also includes an easy-to-read, color-coded scale that indicates how the hospital is performing.

For example, Methodist Hospital of Henderson scored below average on 16 of the measures, average on one measure, and above average on nine; and two measures weren’t evaluated.

Only two other Kentucky hospitals have ever received a failing grade from Leapfrog: Saint Joseph East in Lexington in fall 2015 and Taylor Regional Hospital in Campbellsville in the spring 2013.

According to the Leapfrog researchers, hospitals with grades lower than an A can put patients at an increased risk of “avoidable death.” The news releasesays patients at D and F hospitals face a 92% greater risk of avoidable death; patients at C hospitals on average face an 88% greater risk of avoidable death; and patients at B hospitals on average face a 35% greater risk of avoidable death.

Leapfrog estimates that 160,000 lives are lost every year from avoidable medical errors that are accounted for in its grading process. It says that’s a significant improvement from 2016, when it estimated the number to be around 205,000.

“The good news is that tens of thousands of lives have been saved because of progress on patient safety,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, said in the release. “The bad news is that there’s still a lot of needless death and harm in American hospitals.”

High scorers

St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood has received As on every Leapfrog report card since spring 2014, the first year it was graded.

Other hospitals on the A list are: St. Elizabeth hospitals in Florence and Fort Thomas; Baptist Health LexingtonClark Regional Medical Center in Winchester; Georgetown Community Hospital; Harrison Memorial Hospitalin Cynthiana; Norton Audubon HospitalNorton Brownsboro Hospital and Norton Women’s & Children Hospital, all in Louisville; and Whitesburg ARH Hospital.

Norton Brownsboro and Norton Women’s & Children hospitals were the the only two on this list to change their status since the last grading period, both moving up from a B.

Low scorers

The five hospitals that got Ds are: Taylor Regional Hospital, Hazard ARH Regional Medical CenterHighlands Regional Medical Center in Prestonsburg; Jewish Hospital in Louisville; and the University of Louisville Hospital. 

This was the first D assigned to the Hazard hospital, which since the spring of 2016 had received Bs and Cs. Taylor also moved from a C to a D.

Jewish and the U of L hospital have received Ds since the spring 2016.

U of L Hospital, which separated from KentuckyOne Health on July 1, 2018; KentuckyOne Health, which owns Jewish and Sts. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital; and Baptist Health, on behalf of several of its hospitals across the state, sent statements to Darla Carter of Insider Louisville saying they took issue with the grades, namely because they are based on older data.

“We have reviewed our (publicly) reported data since July 2017, and utilizing the Leapfrog Group’s own calculator for scoring with that data, our calculated grade would have been a C,” Dr. Jason Smith, chief medical officer of U of L Hospital, told Insider Louisville. “This improvement is in line with what we anticipated our ranking would be at this point when we re-assumed oversight of our hospital in July 2017.”

Shifts up and down

TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital in Bowling Green dropped to a grade of B, after receiving five As in a row.

Others on the B list include: Baptist Health Paducah, which maintained its B from the last grading period after getting four Cs in a row; Frankfort Regional Medical Center, which maintained its B from the last period after receiving five As in a row; and Mercy Health Lourdes in Paducah, which maintained its B from last time after getting two Ds and three Cs. The two University of Kentucky hospitals got Cs for the second straight grading period, after getting four Bs in a row.

Three hospitals on the C list dropped from a B in the last grading period: Jackson Purchase Medical Center in Mayfield, Harlan ARH Hospital and T. J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow. Saints Mary & Elizabeth Hospital in Louisville got its second C in a row, after having received a D grades since spring 2016.

The Leapfrog Group says its analysis was developed under the guidance of the nation’s leading patient-safety experts and is peer-reviewed. Click here to see all of Kentucky hospital’s Leapfrog hospital safety grades. Click here for Leapfrog recommendations on how to use the grades.