Wednesday, April 16, 2014

How Safe Are the Hospitals We Use?

If you're a regular reader, you know that I've been focused on hospital safety recently. I asked UnitedHealthcare for a report showing the hospitals participants in our plan used in the past 12 months. Then, I used Leapfrog's Hospital Safety Score to see how each of the hospitals we used are graded. 
The Hospital Safety Score grades hospitals on how safe they are for patients. Each A, B, C, D, or F score assigned to a hospital comes from expert analysis of infections, injuries, and medical and medication errors that frequently cause harm or death during a hospital stay. The score is calculated using publicly available data from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Leapfrog Hospital Survey (where applicable), and secondary data sources. The Hospital Safety Score methodology has been peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Patient Safety.
You can pull up the letter grades of the hospitals anywhere right on your smartphone with the Leapfrog Hospital Safety app. (If you don't have it, download it now.) The hospitals in the DC Metro area range from an A to a F. There are other tools out there, but I really appreciate how Leapfrog differentiates the choices for patients. I urge you to look at the scores before going to a hospital. And, if you wind up at one with a poor rating in an emergency, remember you can move to a different hospital once you're stabilized.  

Unfortunately, the hospitals in Maryland are not scored. Maryland hospitals have their own payment system for reimbursement and they're not required to submit data to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS); therefore, organizations like Leapfrog don't have access to the data. Maryland operates the nation's only all-payer hospital rate regulation system and they're the only state that does not share its' data publicly. There are also some critical access hospitals, specialty hospitals such as children's hospital, and cancer hospitals for which there is insufficient data to assign a score. In these instances, I suggest using Carechex to access hospital quality ratings. 

This is how the hospitals we used are rated. I hope we can shift more of our utilization to the A's and B's. We really don't want sponges left inside of us, surgery on wrong body parts, and secondary infections just to name a few of the "never events" that occur too frequently at the hospitals that received poor ratings.  

FYI: I can see the number of inpatient admissions, the number of inpatient days, the number of outpatient services and the net paid. No information is included that indicates what types of services were received or who sought the services. 

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