The nonprofit Leapfrog Group, which researches patient safety, said patient experience-related measures showed significant signs of improvement since fall 2023, and preventable healthcare-associated infections show a sustained drop after unprecedented rates during the height of the pandemic.

Leapfrog Group has released its spring 2024 Hospital Safety Grades, assigning an “A,” “B,” “C,” “D” or “F” to nearly 3,000 general hospitals on how well they prevent medical errors, accidents and infections. 

Leapfrog Group also reports best patient safety performance by state and, for the first time, by metro area based on highest percentage of “A” hospitals. In spring 2024, Utah ranks No. 1 among states for the second cycle in a row. Virginia is second and New Jersey is third. The top three metro areas are Allentown (Pennsylvania), Winston-Salem (North Carolina), and New Orleans (Louisiana).

“Patient experience is very difficult to influence without delivering better care, so these findings are encouraging,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, in a statement. “We were also pleased to see the decrease in preventable infections, which cause terrible suffering and sometimes death. When we look at these positive trends, we see lives saved—and that is gratifying.”

Patient experience is measured through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uses to publicly report patients’ perspectives of hospital care.

Of the over 30 measures used to generate Hospital Safety Grades, the Leapfrog Group reports on five patient experience measures that have a direct impact on patient safety outcomes:
• Nurse Communication
• Doctor Communication
• Hospital staff responsiveness
• Communication about medicines
• Discharge information

Since the start of the pandemic, patient experience has worsened, the organization said. This spring has shown the first sign of improvement with all measures significantly improving since fall 2023, but the measures are still far below pre-pandemic levels.

Since Leapfrog reported Hospital Safety Grades in fall 2022, when HAI rates were at their highest peak since 2016, 92 percent of hospitals have improved performance on at least one of three dangerous preventable infections. Average HAI scores have declined dramatically:
• Central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) decreased by 34 percent; 
• Catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) decreased by 30 percent; and
• Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) decreased by 30 percent.

“While today’s results are promising, patient safety remains a crisis-level hazard in healthcare. Some hospitals are much better than others at protecting patients from harm, and that’s why we make the Hospital Safety Grade available to the public and why we encourage all hospitals to focus more attention on safety,” added Binder. According to a summary of peer-reviewed research published in BMJ, an estimated 250,000 people a year die of preventable errors and infections in hospitals, which makes patient safety problems the third-leading cause of death in the United States.


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