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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

So many safety scores, so little time

In the seemingly never-ending rollout of new hospital scoring systems, two more have taken the field. Merely a year after the Leapfrog Group and Consumer Reports launched their own hospital safety scorecards (and have conflicting rankings between the two of them), both groups have released shiny new scorecards and calculators.

Consumer Reports recently released “Your safer surgery survival guide,” which looks at data of Medicare patients who died after surgery or increased length of stay. It uses billing data of Medicare patients between 2009 and 2011 from 2,463 in all states. The data found that some hospitals rated high for some procedures and low for others. Urban hospitals and rural facilities that serve sicker, lower income patients scored higher on average than other hospitals, while teaching hospitals and “top” facilities seemed to score lower.

But, does Consumer Reports take other factors into account? Since the information comes from billing data rather than clinical, factors such as how sick a patient is to begin with are not taken into account. Teaching hospitals and urban hospitals tend to see sicker, more complicated patients and are not a reflection on how well a hospital performs, some doctors are saying in response.

The Leapfrog Group also has a new tool, a calculator for employers to determine how much of their healthcare dollars are going to pay for medical errors at certain hospitals – hospitals that received C, D, and F scores from Leapfrog’s Hospital Safety Score. The American Hospital Association – already critical of the Hospital Safety Score system – says that the methodology of the calculator is “seriously flawed” and does not take other factors into account, such as how complicated a patient’s case may be. Leapfrog Group CEO Leah Binder goes so far as to liken using C-ranked or below hospitals as “paying… for the privilege of harming your employees.”

So the question is: Will the constant flow of new safety scores and data tools help make data and costs more transparent? Or will it all just make patients more confused when trying to make informed healthcare decisions?