wide scale shot of a hospital hallway

Understanding Hospital Safety Grades

The Leapfrog Group releases its list of hospital safety grades for medical facilities across the country twice each year. Over four months (from January to April for spring and August through late November for fall), public data and surveys are used to score the hospitals on 27 measures of patient safety, including the possibility of causing infections, surgical errors, safety problems, and staff reviews. Along with their independent research, the nonprofit organization allows hospitals to review the data and surveys for accuracy and to better understand the scoring system being used.

Scores are then finalized and posted to the organization's website, with the hospitals having the option to report the findings to the public (a choice that is notated on their virtual report card).

Understanding why a hospital received these safety grades is important, but so is knowing what to do with this information. While The Leapfrog Group has its recommendations for using the scores, here are more things to consider when reviewing their grades.

Why the Safety Scores Matter

Whether you choose to review a hospital's safety grade or not, knowing how they are assessed and how this can affect you is essential for any prospective patient. Although you may have to make a quick decision about where to receive treatment, understanding the potential hazards of scheduling surgery or other appointments at one hospital versus another may only serve to help you in the long run. Here are some benefits of knowing a hospital's safety grade:

  • It highlights whether a hospital has appropriate staffing to treat you in a timely manner.
  • It gives insight into your likelihood of being injured or contracting another serious illness from receiving treatment in a hospital.
  • It has metrics for how well a hospital treats long-term patients.
  • It showcases the systems that hospitals have in place to improve the safety of their patients.

Ultimately, hospitals can benefit from this safety grading by allowing for more transparency between patient and provider. Likewise, hospitals have the option of providing data on the 27 measures so that The Leapfrog Group can have more comprehensive information rather than rely on what can be publicly accessed.

Is It Bad to Receive Treatment at a Low-Scoring Facility?

Yes and no. A hospital can be receiving a low score for many reasons: there was limited or no data for a specific measurement, the hospital has staffing issues that lead to other measures being affected, or the facility is new, to name a few. If the hospital is going through administrative changes that cause staff communication to suffer, this could also affect their scoring in some areas.

That being said, there are vital measures that any prospective patient should be looking closely into, according to The Leapfrog Group:

  • Handwashing.
  • Infection in the blood.
  • Patient falls.

These three points are highlighted because they often point to medical negligence and more significant issues overall.

How Albuquerque Hospitals Compare

Headlines are made biannually when the new safety grades are released, and the most recent reports for hospitals in New Mexico were no different. The most notable among these was the “D” rating received by the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH). This and four other facilities were the lowest-rated in the state from the fall 2020 reports.

Both the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and The Leapfrog Group have given the hospital low scores (1 star and “D” respectively) in recent years, and officials from UNMH have spoken out against the scoring systems in place. Despite this hospital caring for a high volume of significantly ill patients comparatively, this consideration was not given when ratings were established, despite backlash from hospital officials. Although the mortality rate of patients is considered in the CMS ratings, it is not one of the key measures for Leapfrog and does not impact their scores.

Of the seven hospitals rated in Albuquerque, only two have received an “A” rating in the past year, Lovelace Medical Center - Downtown and Lovelace Women's Hospital. You can learn more about these and the other hospital scores by viewing the Spring 2021 reports here.

How We Can Help

Despite not being explicitly mentioned in these rankings, the likelihood of medical malpractice or negligence can be extrapolated from the data depending on which measures are observed. Considering this, it is important that you know where to turn following dangerous treatment.

The team at James Wood Law has handled hundreds of medical malpractice cases over the years and is committed to protecting patients. If you or a loved one has been injured due to negligence, call (505) 906-6774 to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.

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