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Patient safety ‘report card’ peeves low-scoring hospitals

Hospitals that got bad grades on this week's patient-safety report are fighting to reclaim their reputations.

Florida hospitals, taken as a whole, scored several percentage points better than the national average when The Leapfrog Group released letter grades for 2,600 hospitals on Wednesday at www.HospitalSafetyScore.org.

Only 5 percent of Florida hospitals received a "Grade Pending," which signifies a D or F. But that 5 percent includes some big names, including Jackson Memorial.

The huge public hospital in Miami protests that the data used to come up with the grades, from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, are two years old.

"So it's outdated," said Ed O'Dell, corporate director of Media Relations and Community Outreach, "and in the meantime we've made significant improvements."

A panel of experts analyzed 26 measures of public data on hospital safety to develop the Hospital Safety Score, according to the Leapfrog Group.

O'Dell said three of these measures, assessing post-surgery infection risk reduction, were incorrectly reported on the site. He also said because Jackson's three hospitals are under one license, the unified information Leapfrog used from CMS doesn't represent each hospital's safety performance individually.

Researchers considered patient injuries, medical and medication errors and infection. They also looked at the measures hospitals take to prevent those issues.

But Lee Memorial Health System’s Cape Coral Hospital said Leapfrog failed to consider its current safety measures. That hospital’s grade is pending.

"Data used to compile results are outdated, do not include our current safety initiatives and are not reflective of the current status of safety throughout our four acute care hospitals," said the president of Lee Memorial Health System, Jim Nathan, in an email.

Overall, 32 percent of hospital in Floridas earned an A, while 29 percent were Bs and 34 percent were Cs. The Mayo Clinic of Jacksonville scored an A, an important feat for Medical Director Dr. Nancy Dawson.

"Leapfrog has a very well-respected methodology, so we take seriously what they have reported," Dawson said. "We work very hard all the time to increase our patient safety and have multiple active programs to prevent falls and decrease infections. Our numbers improve every year."

Other Florida hospitals listed as "Grade Pending" on the Leapfrog site were University of Miami Hospital, Larkin Community Hospital in South Miami, DeSoto Memorial in Arcadia, and St. Luke's Hospital in Jacksonville. They'll have until November to improve their safety standards before Leapfrog releases this year's final scores.

The patient-safety movement gained its impetus from the landmark 1999 Institute of Medicine report "To Err Is Human," which estimated that at least 44,000 Americans die each year as a result of errors in hospitals.

“The Leapfrog Group’s goal is to give patients the vital information they need and deserve before even entering a hospital,”said president and CEO Leah Binder in a news release. “We hope people will use this score to talk with their doctor, make informed decisions about where to seek care, and take the right precautions during a hospital stay.”

--Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to journalism in the public interest. Editor Carol Gentry can be reached at  727-410-3266  or by e-mail.