A national organization that pushes for hospital safety gave the Memorial Hospital system a “C” and the two Penrose-St. Francis hospitals a “B” in its latest ratings, based on data gleaned from public agencies and the hospitals themselves.
The Penrose-St. Francis grade from the Washington-based Leapfrog Group is an improvement from the “C” its hospitals received in a June report. In the latest report, the two hospitals — Penrose on Cascade Avenue and St. Francis Medical Center on Woodmen Road — scored higher than the average U.S. hospital in most areas, but fell far short in two measures: physician staffing in Intensive Care Units, and implementation of electronic prescription systems.
Penrose-St. Francis spokesman Chris Valentine said the hospitals are scheduled to implement the electronic prescription system in the spring. But he said additional comment on the results would have to wait.
“I talked to our chief medical officer and quality folks, and they said the Leapfrog data is very complicated,” Valentine said. “It will take a couple of weeks to wade through it and see where we did well and where the challenges are.”
Memorial’s grade remained the same from June, and while it, too, scored low in the same two areas as Penrose-St. Francis hospitals, it also had a poor showing in the number of deaths from “serious treatable complications after surgery.” The number for the average performing hospital, reported as a rate per 1,000 discharges, was 113.63; Memorial’s was 157.
"Safety and quality are the most important priorities for Memorial," Memorial Hospital spokesman Brian Newsome said in an email. "No score can ever be high enough to meet the standards that we set for ourselves.Each and every morning at Memorial, our doctors, nurses and other health care professionals meet to go over data from the previous day in order to understand how they can improve quality for the day ahead."
Much of the data for both hospital systems is at least a year old, with some of the statistics dating to 2009. Memorial is now under the umbrella of University of Colorado Health, whose flagship hospital in Aurora received an “A.”
Statewide, the number of hospitals receiving an “A” grade nearly doubled from the last report, from seven to 13.
The Leapfrog Group sets the grades nationwide and publicizes them to reduce the nearly 400 lives lost every day in U.S. hospitals due to preventable errors. These include hospital-borne infections and giving the patient the wrong medication or the wrong blood. Hospitals are ranked on their rates of such problems as well as related factors like staffing levels and prevention practices.
One-third of the 39 ranked Colorado hospitals received an “A” grade in the just-released report, while states like Maine and Massachusetts, with strong hospital safety programs, saw 80 percent or more receiving the top grade.
“Leapfrog is unbiased in telling the whole truth about how hospitals are doing, no matter how much discomfort that causes many of them. Consumers deserve ‘A’ hospitals and someday we may see all hospitals earning ‘A’s.’ However, we are not there yet,” said Keith Reissaus, board chair of The Leapfrog Group, in a media release.
Attaining an “A” once, however, doesn’t keep a hospital in the top ranks. Two Colorado hospitals that received the highest grade in June slipped downward in the new report card. Parkview in Pueblo and St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction both dropped from an A to a C.
Parkview was downgraded for somewhat higher rates of infections, accidental cuts and pressure ulcers, among other issues.
Colorado had none of the 147 hospitals nationwide receiving failing grades in this round of rankings.
The Colorado Hospital Association had objected to the Leapfrog study six months ago, but says changes have been made that no longer penalize certain hospitals for failing to report certain safety data. CHA also suggested patients seek personal references for quality hospitals, and check other websites with quality data, including Medicare’s Hospital Comparison, the state’s data on infections and CHA’s own Colorado Hospital Report Card.
Newsome, too, recommends people check other sites.
"The Leapfrog rating system is one resource out of many available to consumers, and we encourage patients to consider them all as they make decisions about their health. For example, Memorial has one of the lowest readmission rates in the country for people recovering from heart attacks and heart failure," he said. "It is worth noting that consolidating vast amounts of complex health information into a single letter grade is a nice concept for consumers, but in practice it does not provide a complete picture of the care a patient can and should expect."
Send your stories of hospital safety problems to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on www.ColoradoPublicNews.org.
Details of each hospital’s grade can be found at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org. Here are some selected results for Front Range-area hospitals:
Denver Health Medical Center
Centura - St. Anthony, Lakewood
University of Colorado Hospital, Aurora
Exempla St. Joseph Hospital, Denver
McKee Medical Center, Loveland
Rose Medical Center, Denver
Centura – Porter Adventist Hospital, Denver
Medical Center of Aurora
Sky Ridge Medical Center, Lone Tree
Centura – Littleton Adventist Hospital
Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center, Lafayette
North Colorado Medical Center, Greeley
Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins
Boulder Community Hospital, Boulder
Centura – Penrose St. Francis Health Center, Colorado p Springs,
Swedish Medical Center, Englewood
North Suburban Medical Center, Thornton
Centura - Parker Adventist Hospital, Parker
Medical Center of the Rockies, Loveland
Centura – St. Francis Medical Center, Colorado Springs
Longmont United Hospital, Longmont
Exempla Lutheran Medical Center, Wheat Ridge
Centura - St. Mary Corwin Medical Center, Pueblo
Presbyterian – St. Luke’s Medical Center, Denver
Centura – St. Thomas More Hospital, Canon City
Parkview Medical Center, Pueblo
Memorial Health System, Colorado Springs
Centura – St. Anthony North Hospital, Westminster