CALIFORNIA — Nearly 34 percent of California hospitals received top grades in protecting patient safety, according to the spring 2023 hospital safety grades released Wednesday by The Leapfrog Group, an independent nonprofit health care watchdog. That’s an improvement compared to the last round of rankings, even as the average risk of contracting deadly infections remained elevated nationwide after spiking to a five-year high during the pandemic.
With one-third of Golden State hospitals earning Leapfrog’s top grade, California is 12th in the nation when it comes to the percentage of high-grade hospitals. In the fall rankings, California placed 25th.
In addition to the nationwide elevated infection risk, patient experience measures — like communication from doctors — also declined, according to the report. Leapfrog said the findings should be a wake-up call to hospitals.
The Leapfrog Group uses an academic grading scale with five letter grades to score nearly 3,000 hospitals nationwide on more than 30 measures of patient safety. Leapfrog says its hospital rating system is the only one in the country focusing solely on a hospital’s ability to protect patients from preventable errors.
In California, 95 hospitals received an A, 68 hospitals received a B, 93 hospitals received a C, and 23 hospitals received a D grade. Two hospitals received an F: Los Angeles Community Hospital and Pacifica Hospital of the Valley.
“Quality of care and patient safety are our most important priorities at Los Angeles Community Hospital. We have already taken steps to address the issues identified in the recent Leapfrog survey, which is based on 2021-22 data,” Los Angeles Community Hospital officials said in an email to Patch. The hospital noted other ranking systems such as the Healthgrades and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that gave Los Angeles Community Hospital four and five star-ratings as well as the Patient Safety Excellence Award.
Hoag Hospital Irvine and Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach has once again been awarded straight “A’s.”
High rates of three health care-associated infections, or HAIs, “should stop hospitals in their tracks,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a news release, noting that “infections like these can be life or death for some patients.”
“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,” Binder said.
The problematic infections are Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA; central line-associated bloodstream infections, or CLABSI; and catheter-associated urinary tract infections, or CAUTI. When compared to rankings that covered the period immediately before the COVID-19 outbreak, the analysis found an increased infection ratio for all three infections. The spring 2023 rankings cover late 2021 and 2022.
However, another such infection, Clostridioides difficile, or C.Diff, improved and there was no significant change for surgical site infections post surgery, the report said. The standardized infection ratio used to measure changes in the rates of infections compares the actual number of reported infections to the predicted number at each hospital.
“Not only are HAIs among the leading causes of death in the U.S., they also increase length of hospitalization stays and add to costs,” Binder said. “Our pre-pandemic data showed improved HAI measures, but the spring 2023 Safety Grade data spotlights how hospital responses to the pandemic led to a decline in patient safety and HAI management.”
Patient experience measures included communication with nurses and doctors, staff responsiveness, and communication about medicine and discharge information. Nationally, the average of all five measures declined when compared to pre-pandemic measures, according to the report.