Nonprofit grades hospitals on patient safety; the 52 ranked in Ky. improved slightly, but the state still ranks relatively low

By Traci Thomas
Kentucky Health News

A nonprofit group that rates hospitals released its patient-safety scores Monday, giving most Kentucky hospitals a ‘B’ or ‘C’. The scores are similar to grades released in June, but the state improved its national rating from 40th to 35th.

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C., evaluated 2,633 hospitals nationwide, including 52 in Kentucky. Most of Kentucky’s 129 hospitals were not rated because critical-access hospitals in rural areas don’t have to report their quality measures.

The grades are calculated using 30 publicly available safety-performance measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey.

The calculation gave an A to 12 of Kentucky’s hospitals, or 21.3 percent, lower than the national average of 31.3 percent. Eighteen each, or 34.6 percent, earned a B or a C. Four hospitals, or 7.7 percent of those reviewed, got a D. That was down from six (11.5 percent) in the spring.

Three of the four Kentucky hospitals that got a D are in Louisville and owned or operated by KentuckyOne Health: Jewish Hospital, Sts. Mary and Elizabeth Hospital and University of Louisville Hospital. A state inspection of University Hospital this year found that shortcomings in nursing had endangered three patients, and nurses and doctors told inspectors that staff shortages put patients at risk.

The data used for the grades go back as far as July 2013 and are no more recent than June 2015.

“KentuckyOne Health said it has implemented programs and best practices to improve quality and safety across its facilities, including at U of L Hospital, which has been fraught with controversy this year,” Darla Carter reports for The Courier-Journal.

Company spokesman David McArthur told the newspaper in a statement: “While these Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades at some of our facilities may not reflect the culture of quality, safety and service instilled in recent years across KentuckyOne Health, we are confident that the commitment of nurses, physicians and employees at all our facilities will guide our improvement and the delivery of quality care.”

The other hospital to get a D was Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center in Danville. St. Joseph Hospital and St. Joseph East in Lexington, also owned by KentuckyOne, received Cs this fall after getting Ds in the spring.

Among Leapfrog’s top safety picks is Pikeville Medical Center, the only Kentucky hospital to get straight As since the rankings began in 2013. The two University of Kentucky hospitals got Bs after getting Cs last spring.

The grades include separate ratings for errors, injuries, accidents and infections. Click here for Kentucky’s hospital safety scores.

The Leapfrog Group says its analysis was developed under the guidance of the nation’s leading patient-safety experts. The report is peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

“In the fast-changing health care landscape, patients should be aware that hospitals are not all equally competent at protecting them from injuries and infections,” Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder said in the report. The group tweeted, “No hospital is perfectly safe.”

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