How North Bay hospitals fared in Leapfrog’s spring patient safety ratings
A national watchdog group that twice-yearly ranks hospitals on safety measures has changed the grades of three North Bay hospitals since November.
In its spring 2023 Hospital Safety Grades report, the Leapfrog Group lowered the rankings of two Providence hospitals — Petaluma Valley Hospital and Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa — from a “B” to a “C,” and raised MarinHealth Medical Center’s grade from a “C” to a “B.” The Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit organization released the results May 3.
“Patient safety is and always will be our number one goal and something we are continually evaluating for benchmark practices,” Dr. David Klein, CEO of MarinHealth, said in an email statement. “We are appreciative of the Leapfrog Group’s acknowledgment of our continued advancements as it pertains to patient safety and excellence in care.”
Providence doesn’t participate in Leapfrog’s surveys.
“While we fully support Leapfrog’s efforts to provide comparative information to the public, it is important to note that private reporting agencies — like Leapfrog — each have their own proprietary scoring methodologies, which can make reporting and results interpretation difficult and complex,” Providence said in a statement. “The methodology Leapfrog uses to score hospitals does not fully align with the depth and richness of our quality processes.”
The statement continued: “As a result, Providence Northern California (Queen of the Valley Medical Center, Petaluma Valley Hospital and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital) chose to discontinue participation in the Leapfrog Group’s reporting platform in 2019 and have not actively participated in this program since that time.”
Providence also noted it performs “rigorous internal reviews of our quality and safety on a regular basis” and that its hospitals are recognized for quality “by respected organizations such as Healthgrades and the Centers for Medicate and Medicaid Services (CMS).”
Leapfrog ranks nearly 3,000 U.S. general hospitals each spring and fall based on more than 30 measures that include the number of preventable errors, injuries, accidents and infections. Scores also include the basics of medical care, such as handwashing, properly entering prescriptions through a computer, as well as preventive measures hospitals take to prevent falls.
Five of the 30 measures address patient experiences, which directly impact patient safety outcomes. Those measures are nurse communication, doctor communication, staff responsiveness, communication about medicine and discharge information. The national average of these measures was lower than pre-pandemic numbers, according to the release.
Leapfrog reported it found a substantial increase in health care-associated infections in the nation’s hospitals during the pandemic. The infections can be related to devices, such as central lines and urinary catheters, or spread from patient to patient after contact with an infected person or surface, the U.S Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services states on its website. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collects such data from the National Healthcare Safety Network.
“We recognize the tremendous strain the pandemic put on hospitals and their workforce, but alarming findings like these indicate hospitals must recommit to patient safety and build more resilience,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, stated in the release. “Not only are (healthcare-associated infections) among the leading causes of death in the U.S., they also increase length of hospitalization stays and add to costs.”
Hospitals in West Virginia and New Mexico had the largest increase in infections and overall the worst safety ratings among the 50 states, ranking 48th and 43rd, respectively, according to Leapfrog’s rankings. Hospitals in New Jersey, Idaho, Utah and Pennsylvania scored the highest. California was ranked 12th.
The rankings among the North Bay’s hospitals didn’t generally prove worrisome. In fact, Leapfrog’s grade for the region’s other hospitals — none below a “C,” didn’t change from the fall.
Continuing to receive an “A” grade for safety were Kaiser Permanente’s four medical centers in the North Bay, located in San Rafael, Santa Rosa, Vacaville and Vallejo. Adventist Health St. Helena also remained at the top, according to Leapfrog.
Retaining their “B” grades were NorthBay Medical Center in Fairfield and NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, both operated by NorthBay Healthcare. Sutter Health’s Novato Community Hospital also scored a “B.”
Both Providence Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and Adventist Health Ukiah Valley stayed at a “C” grade, according to Leapfrog.
Some hospitals, including Kaiser Permanente and Adventist Health St. Helena, supply their data to Leapfrog that helps in the creation of their ratings.
Other health care systems, like Providence, that choose not to participate include Sonoma Valley Hospital, operated by Sonoma Valley Health Care District; Adventist Health Clear Lake; and hospitals operated by Sutter Health.
Hospitals that don’t participate are assigned a safety grade based on publicly available data from numerous sources, according to Leapfrog.
Leapfrog also isn’t the only organization that measures hospital safety performance and other measures, though nonprofit Cal Hospital Compares cites Leapfrog ratings as part of its scoring system. Cal Hospital Compares last month released its 2023 Patient Safety Honor Roll, with seven North Bay hospitals ranking in the second of two tiers, as the Business Journal reported April 24.
The U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services every year releases its Overall Hospital Quality Ratings, scoring hospitals between one and five stars. And Denver-based Healthgrades annually evaluates U.S. hospitals on mortality rates and in-hospital complications, taking into consideration patient risk factors such as age, gender and medical condition.