‘A’ through ‘F’: Group rates Georgia hospitals

Eleven Georgia hospitals rated an “A’’ grade on patient safety in an updated report card released Wednesday by the Leapfrog Group.

The Washington-based nonprofit organization’s ratings come five months after its first scorecard, and reflect more current data and some adjustments in methodology.

The new Leapfrog list gave 27 hospitals in Georgia a “B’’ and 32 a “C.’’ Four received a “D” and one, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany, got an “F.”

A Phoebe Putney official contested the Leapfrog methodology in an interview with GHN on Wednesday, saying some data used in the scoring were outdated.

Separately, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week challenging Phoebe Putney’s merger last year with another Albany hospital.

The Leapfrog grades are based on preventable medical errors, injuries, accidents, and infections. The organization said hospitals generally are making progress, but many still have a long way to go on delivering safe health care.

Measures analyzed included the frequency of blood line infections, and how often a hospital gives patients an antibiotic within one hour before a surgical incision. The scoring system used 26 measures of publicly available hospital safety data, including Medicare’s Hospital Compare figures.

“Everybody has a role in improving this terrible problem with safety in American hospitals,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, said in a statement.

At least 180,000 patients are killed annually by errors, accidents, injuries, and infections in American hospitals, Leapfrog said.

Here’s a link to the Georgia hospital grades.

Consumer-oriented health care reports such as the Leapfrog grades have grown substantially in the past decade, driven in large part by the Internet and demand from patients, employers and government.

Savannah hospitals scored well in the ratings, with Candler Hospital, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Memorial Health University Medical Center each receiving an “A.”

Other hospitals in the state with A grades: Tanner Medical Center in Carrollton; Gordon Hospital in Calhoun; Cartersville Medical Center in Cartersville; Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens; Coliseum Medical Centers in Macon; WellStar Douglas Hospital in Douglasville; Fannin Regional Hospital in Blue Ridge; and DeKalb Medical at Hillandale in Lithonia.

Nationally, 30 percent of hospitals scored an “A” — double the rate in Georgia, where only 15 percent got the top grade.

Leapfrog said a wide range of hospitals earned “A’s,” with no specific class of hospitals, such as teaching hospitals or public hospitals, dominant among those getting the highest safety scores. “A” scores were earned by some hospitals “serving highly vulnerable, impoverished, and/or health-challenged populations,” Leapfrog said.

The first round of grades received a mixed reception from the hospital industry.

In the second round, Leapfrog altered methodology for two measures used to calculate the grades. One was linked to use of computerized physician order entry and the other to physician staffing of ICUs, partly in response to previous comments on the grades, Binder said, according to Modern Healthcare.

In the June ratings, three Georgia hospitals were listed as “Grade Pending,’’ which Kaiser Health News said was Leapfrog’s euphemism for below a “C.” They were Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Phoebe Putney, and Stephens County Hospital in Toccoa.

In the new rankings, Stephens County received a “C” and Grady a “D.”

Phoebe Putney was among 25 U.S. hospitals that received an “F.” It was graded down on such measures as “Death From Serious Treatable Complications After Surgery.’’

Palmyra, the Albany hospital with which Phoebe recently merged, received a “B.’’

Dr. Doug Patten, senior vice president of medical affairs for Phoebe Putney, said Wednesday that the hospital and health system “are firmly supportive’’ of the push for transparency and public reporting of safety information.

But Patten said he was “troubled’’ by the Leapfrog methodology. Leapfrog, he said, took a range of complex information and distilled it into a single letter grade, which ‘‘could be inaccurate and misleading.’’

Some of the data used was as much as three years old, Patten said.

“That’s not how you get the most useful information into the hands of people to make wise health care decisions,’’ he said.

Phoebe Putney now has an excellent record on central line infections and patient falls, Patten added. “Our goal is to be in the top 10 percent in every measure that’s publicly reported.’’

“No one likes getting an ‘F,’ ’’ Patten said. But Phoebe Putney patients, he said, “can be confident [they] are getting excellent care in a safe environment.’’

The Georgia Hospital Association said in June that hospitals that did not fill out the Leapfrog survey appeared to be at a disadvantage in the rankings, a contention that was disputed by Binder.

Patten said Phoebe will fill out the next Leapfrog survey.

Hospital staff were involved with merging the two hospitals at the time of the current survey, he said.

The Federal Trade Commission has continued to challenge the merger in Albany, with the case now before the Supreme Court. Here is a link to an Associated Press account of Monday’s hearing on the Albany hospital situation.