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Leapfrog Hospital Safety Survey results released

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The 2014 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Survey, which looks at how hospitals in New Jersey and nationwide perform in critical areas like avoiding medication errors and hospital-acquired infections, was posted Friday by the Leapfrog Group on its website.

Hospitals voluntarily participate in the annual hospital safety survey by the Leapfrog Group, which was founded in 2000 to promote the safety, quality and affordability of health care. In New Jersey, 59 of the state’s 71 acute care hospitals participated in the 2014 Leapfrog survey.

In the fall, Leapfrog will issue another report giving each hospital a letter grade — A to F — for safety. That Safety Score report card includes information from the 2014 Leapfrog survey and other national hospital safety databases.

With its 83 percent response rate, New Jersey ranked third in the nation for hospital participation in the 2014 Leapfrog survey, behind Maine and Massachusetts, according to the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute. 

Consumers can look up individual New Jersey hospitals on the Leapfrog report and see how they fared in such areas as staffing in the intensive care unit; maternity care; hospital-acquired conditions like infections, injuries and pressure ulcers; and high-risk surgeries like aortic valve replacements.

Linda Schwimmer, vice president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and member of the Leapfrog Group’s board of directors, commended the high rate of participation by New Jersey hospitals.

“At the close of the 2013 Survey we had 59 hospitals reporting and to see that same amount participate is encouraging,” Schwimmer said.  

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey awards bonuses to hospitals of up to $250,000 a year based on their performance on the Leapfrog survey.

“It’s a perfect example of how the survey can be used to benefit all players involved,” Schwimmer said. “Hospitals are incentivized and rewarded for providing higher quality care, patients benefit from receiving better care and payers are getting more value for their dollars; everybody wins.” 

Kerry McKean Kelly, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Hospital Association, said Leapfrog is one of several hospital report cards available to the public.

"It can be a helpful source of information, but not every hospital participates in the Leapfrog survey," she said. "That doesn’t mean the hospital scored well or scored poorly – it simply means the hospital did not participate in that particular survey."

Other sources of hospital quality information are the  federal government’s Hospital Compare website and the State of New Jersey’s annual Hospital Performance Report, she noted.

"Our best advice to patients and health care consumers is to take advantage of the wide array of health care quality information that’s out there," Kelly said.

Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, said, "New Jersey hospitals as a whole do very well on Leapfrog." She said the 83 percent participation rate in New Jersey is good, but "we'd like to see 100 percent."

Binder said consumers making decisions about hospitals should look at how hospitals perform on the "hospital conditions" section, which focuses on safety, as well as how they perform on specific procedures, such as maternity care and heart surgery.

Consumers can see if "the hospital is making the kind of effort you would expect to maintain a safe environment."

Leapfrog also looks at the hospital's nursing workforce. Binder said: "Nursing is pretty important. It's most of the care delivered in the hospitals."

She said there are differences among hospitals when it comes to overall safety and how they perform on certain procedures, "so it definitely merits a few minutes of your time to take a look."

Leapfrog's hospital safety scores — the A to F letter grades — will be released this fall, probably in October, Binder said.

"We grade them on the safety of the hospital," she said. "It is very important; we think safety should come first."

Binder said Leapfrog looks at whether  the hospital has a computerized system for managing its medications: "That can cut medication errors by 75 percent; it's very important."

Binder noted that employers and health plans incorporate Leapfrog data in their "pay-for-performance" contracts with hospitals.

"All the national health plans use the Leapfrog data as part of their pay-for-performance programs, which are programs where they pay hospitals differential payments at contracting based on how they are doing," she said. "Leapfrog is a very important data set for employers directly and for health plans they work with."

She said the Horizon bonus program has contributed to improvements in New Jersey hospitals. "It is an excellent program." 

She said she is puzzled why some hospitals don't participate in Leapfrog, which she said is a prominent quality metric in New Jesey and where the hospitals who participate can get bonus payments from Horizon.

The Leapfrog Group was founded in 2000 by a group of employers, initially supported by the Business Roundtable, and is supported by its members and by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Leapfrog said its goals are "mobilizing employer purchasing power to alert America's health industry that big leaps in health care safety, quality and customer value will be recognized and rewarded." Employer members of Leapfrog include Verizon, UPS and Boeing, and members also include organizations of health care purchasers, including the Northeast Business Group on Health, which includes New Jersey.

To view the results of the study, click here.

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Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald

Beth Fitzgerald reports on health care, small business and higher education. She joined NJBIZ in 2008 after a 34-year career at the Star-Ledger and has been reporting on business in New Jersey since 1978. Her email is beth@njbiz.com and she is @bethfitzgerald8 on Twitter.

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