COVID-19 pandemic hurts patient safety grades for hospitals

Nonprofit commends workforce, asks for renewed commitment to patient safety.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused “a significant decline” in some measures of patient safety in hospitals, according to a new national report.

The Leapfrog Group published its spring 2022 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, which assigns letter grades to almost 3,000 general hospitals across the United States. The grades are based on more than 30 measures of patient safety and a hospital’s ability to protect patients from preventable errors, accidents, injuries and infections.

“The health care workforce has faced unprecedented levels of pressure during the pandemic, and as a result, patients' experience with their care appears to have suffered,” Leah Binder, Leapfrog Group president and CEO said in a press release. “We commend the workforce for their heroic efforts these past few years and now strongly urge hospital leadership to recommit to improved care — from communication to responsiveness — and get back on track with patient safety outcomes.”

Hospitals receive overall letter grades of A, B, C, D or F, based on measures dealing with infections, problems with surgery, safety problems, practices to prevent errors and doctors, nurses and hospital staff. Within those categories, the Leapfrog Group ranks hospitals as performing below average, at average or above average for practices or patient conditions.

The data come from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The results are published online at HospitalSafetyGrade.org.

Across all states, highlights of findings from the spring 2022 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade include:

  • A ratings went to 33% of hospitals; 24% received a B; 36% received a C, 7% received a D, and less than 1% received an F.
  • The five states with the highest percentages of A-graded hospitals are North Carolina, Virginia, Utah, Colorado, and Michigan.
  • There were no A-graded hospitals in Wyoming, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, or North Dakota.

“Despite a general decrease in patient experience ratings, spring grades continue to show significant variation in safety performance across U.S. hospitals,” Binder said. “This variability is a constant reminder that the public must have access to information on which hospitals are safer so patients can make the best decision for themselves and their loved ones.”

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., concurrently published “Patient Experience During the Pandemic,” the second installment of a three-part series examining pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic patient experiences in outpatient surgical care and adult inpatient care. The final report dealing with pediatric care is scheduled for the end of May.