A dozen hospitals in the state -- including Bridgeport Hospital, Milford Hospital and Yale-New Haven Hospital -- received a "C" on safety issues in a ranking system released Wednesday by a patient advocacy group.
The nonprofit Leapfrog Group, run by employers and other large purchasers of health benefits, released its Hospital Safety Score, which gives hospitals a letter grade based on their performance on 26 hospital safety measures. The measures used to determine the grades include rates of infections, falls, complications and other problems at hospitals, as well as adherence to safety practices, such as proper staffing levels and hand-washing.
The goal of the project was to provide an easy tool to help people make smart choices about health care, said Dr. Ashish Jha, assistant professor of health policy at Harvard University School of Public Health. Jha was one of nine patient safety experts who served as advisers on the Safety Score project. He said the initiative aims to attack the issue of hospital safety on two fronts.
"We want to get information into the hands of consumers so they can use it, and we also want to focus hospitals and get them to pay more attention to patient safety," he said.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 100,000 Americans die every year from preventable errors in hospitals.
Of the 2,652 hospitals to receive a score, 729 received an "A," 679 earned a "B" and 1,243 earned a "C" or below. In Connecticut, only four hospitals received an "A" -- St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport, the Hospital of Saint Raphael in New Haven, Greenwich Hospital and St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.
To develop the safety score, Jha and the other advisers gathered data from various sources, including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the annual Leapfrog survey. The state with the largest percentage of hospitals receiving an "A" was Massachusetts, while hospitals in Washington, D.C. received the lowest scores overall.
Locally, health officials were mixed on the scoring system. A spokeswoman for the Connecticut Hospital Association, which represents 140 hospitals and other health care organizations in the state, questioned the reliability of the scoring system.
In an email statement, spokeswoman Michele Sharp said the Safety Score effort is positive in that it helps draw attention to patient safety, but she questioned the overall reliability of the grades. For instance, some of the data collected for the project is more than a year old, and Sharp feared the information doesn't represent the ongoing safety improvements made at many hospitals in the state.
Still, Sharp said she and others at the hospital association "fully support the effort to make data more accessible to consumers through the transparent sharing of quality and patient safety performance data."
Others were more negative about the scoring, including John Cappiello, media relations coordinator at Bridgeport Hospital. Cappiello said hospitals that don't fill out a survey sent by Leapfrong are judged more harshly than those that do. "Leapfrog's scoring system penalizes hospitals that don't submit data, despite their performance and, therefore, our performance is not accurately reflected in the scores," he said.
But Leah Binder, president and chief executive officer of Leapfrog, said that the survey doesn't affect the score and pointed out that at least one hospital, the Cleveland Clinic in Florida, received an "A" and never filled out a survey.
Stamford Hospital, which received a "C," said it is analyzing the results of the rankings and pointed patients to the federal government's Hospital Compare site, on which Stamford has favorable quality results.
Milford Hospital and the Western Connecticut Health Network, which represents Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital, issued statements also questioning Leapfrog's methods. Andrea Rynn, director of public and government affairs for the Western Connecticut Health Network, said she doesn't remember ever seeing a Leapfrog survey.
Not surprisingly, hospitals that received an "A" were pleased about the scorecard and said it reflects their commitment to safety.
"We're absolutely elated," said Dr. Lawrence Schek, chief medical officer and chairman of cardiovascular services at St. Vincent's Medical Center. "We have a culture of safety and high reliability at St. Vincent's. Everybody here is really empowered to be an advocate for patients and patient safety."
Consumers can see the grades at the Hospital Safety Score website, www.hospitalsafetyscore.org.
email@example.com; 203-330-6290; twitter.com/AmandaCuda; http://blog.ctnews.com/whatthehealth/