By ROB W. ANDERSON
When planning for a situation that will impact both your pocketbook and physical well-being, it’s important to do the research on the source of service or product.
Learning as much as possible is especially important when considering health care services, like those provided at Tahlequah City Hospital, Muskogee Regional Medical Center, or even W.W. Hastings Hospital.
According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 180,000 Medicare patients lose their lives every year as a result of hospital accidents, errors and infections. It was noted that another 1.4 million people receive serious injuries while receiving care in a hospital setting.
To help provide individuals with a way to learn more about the quality and safety, ratings systems have been developed to provide consumers with direct and online access information on hospitals they may be considering as a medical service provider.
One such ratings source is HospitalSafetyScore.org. The Hospital Safety Score assigns a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F, based on 26 safety measures and standards, like hand-washing policies to foreign objects left in body cavities following surgical procedures. More than 2,600 hospitals in the country have received a Hospital Safety Score grade, and nearly half of the hospitals analyzed for quality and safety received a C or lower, according to a report by the AARP.
The Leapfrog Group, which provides the online grade report free of charge to consumers, was formed in 2000 because company executives were spending endless amounts of money in employee health care benefits and felt they needed more information on the medical services for which the company was providing, said The Leapfrog Group Communications Manager Erica Mobley.
“The most familiar [companies that help form The Leapfrog Group safety score include] FedEx, G[eneral] M[otors] and Boeing. So really, really large companies that are paying for health insurance on millions of employees, their families and retirees,” she said. “They felt they didn’t know enough about the quality of care being received when their employees went to hospitals.”
Mobley noted the information used to develop the grade is received from sources like Medicare and the American Hospital Association.
“It was all publicly available information. Medicare collects data from hospitals. We also collect data, and the American Hospital Association collects data, as well,” she said. “We worked with a panel of experts in their field from institutions like Harvard and the University of Michigan-Stanford. They helped to determine what were the most important measures of safety and then began developing a scoring methodology using this public data that could be applied to any hospital.”
W.W. Hastings Hospital doesn’t have a Hospital Safety Score, because it is categorized under an exempt group that includes Indian Health Services.
Tahlequah City Hospital received a “B,” while Muskogee Regional Medical Center held a “C” rating in spring 2012, but received a “D” for its fall 2012 grade. Muskogee Community Hospital received a “C,” while Siloam Springs, Ark., Memorial Hospital received a “C.”
Ratings from sources like the HospitalSafetyScore.org or Hospitalsafety.org are created by data hospitals have already submitted to other entities, which are then compiled to create the grading scalefor consumer consideration, said Tahlequah City Hospital patient care vice president Donna Dallis.
“Websites such as these are not used by hospitals, because we already have real-time access to the data and have reported it to another agency,” she said. “These sites are designed to help the consumer make an informed decision regarding their health care. At Tahlequah City Hospital, we stay abreast of the latest research methods designed to improve quality of care. We then report our statistics to various organizations, such as the Center for Medicare and Medicaid, where groups like hospitalsafety.org retrieve their information.”
W.W. Hastings Hospital chief executive officer Brian Hall noted The Leapfrog Group assists organizations purchase health care for large groups, such as health care plans.
“W.W. Hastings Hospital is a facility that only serves American Indian and Alaska Natives. We would not be targeted by Leapfrog’s program,” he said. “Leapfrog charges a subscription for its software for hospitals to report their information; the information reported by Leapfrog is commonly collected and reported by most hospitals - Hastings included - in other formats, especially hospitalcompare.gov.”
Hall added that Hastins already participates in numerous safety and quality initiatives that are comparable, if not more comprehensive in many aspects, to Leapfrog.
Christina Deidesheimer, director of marketing communications and public relations for Eastar Health System, said implementation of a core measure class for newly hired nurses was developed based on feedback from such sites as hospitalsafety score.org.
“Our nurses are educated on core measures and are trained on what measures to take when they recognize a variance from a core measure standard. Feedback directs where we concentrate our education and process enhancements on an ongoing basis,” she said. “One of the safety features we use includes stop processes, [which] require nursing to stop at certain points and assess whether core measures are being met.”
Deidesheimer said Eastar’s administration is proactive and supports established efforts in quality performance.
“Our Quality Improvement Department is made up of highly trained and experienced professionals who work collaboratively with every level of our organization to ensure patient safety is always top of mind,” she said. “We’re very pleased to report that as of the last completed quarter, Eastar is ranked with the top 10 percent of hospitals nationally in 12 of 25 measures – equal to or better than the U.S. average in 19 out of 25 measures, and equal to or better than the Oklahoma average in 18 out of 25 measures.”
Deideshiemer pointed out the scorecard includes grades for 2,652 acute care hospitals nationwide, and that certain specialty hospitals and hospitals with insufficient data have been excluded from the listing.
“The new Leapfrog scorecard can be a useful tool for consumers. However, there are several sites that offer similar information, including the government’s Hospital Compare website,” she said. “The Leapfrog analysis is based on a new methodology that is a composite of process and outcome measures. Some of these measures may be more subjective than other publicly available data. Until the Leapfrog methodology is reviewed and validated, consumers should be wary of using the ratings as their only source of information on hospital quality.”
She also noted that information on the site is based on data reported two years ago and covers the ensuing year, which means the information being reported is at least one year old.