WHEN YOU WALK INTO a hospital to get treatment for yourself or a loved one, you’re trusting that the facility and staff follow practices to keep you safe and properly cared for. But trust should be earned. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an expert researcher or spend hours on a computer to find a hospital’s patient safety record.
For years, patient safety issues such as infections, medical errors, and injuries have plagued America’s hospitals. This year, Medicare will cut payments to 2,499 hospitals due to high readmission rates and infections. In the fourth quarter of 2020, 2,715 cases of MRSA, a serious bacteria infection, occurred in 3,296 hospitals reporting to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).
Prepare for a Healthy Stay
Even if you don’t have a choice about where you’ll go because your doctor or health network partner with a specific hospital – or it’s literally the only one around – taking the time to learn your hospital’s safety “grades” can alert you to potential problems and take precautions. (see Preventing Infections…section below)
Doing a Google search for “best hospitals” or “hospital rankings” will bring up lots of information, but what can you trust? AEPC has waded through the search results. While there are many helpful resources, we’ll focus on just a few look-up tools that are easy to use, up-to-date and from highly regarded healthcare research institutions.
Getting the Grade
Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are available for nearly 3,000 hospitals across the U.S. You can take a look at problem areas such as hospital infections and surgical errors. The data is detailed but not intimidating, thanks to clear formatting and text that’s written in plain English.
Dig a little deeper and you’ll find even more, such as the number of surgeries performed at the hospital for procedures such as hip or knee replacement, bariatric/weight loss, or heart conditions.
You’ll also find medication safety protocols, which are important because mistakes with administering and ordering medicines have become major hospital problems.
Leapfrog’s grades are based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) as well as their own survey developed by medical experts. Leapfrog is recognized in the healthcare industry for the solid methodologies they use to come up with their letter grades.
Kaiser Health News has created a simple look up tool so anyone can find out if Medicare has penalized a hospital for failing to meet its patient safety standards.
Search by hospital name or state, city, county to pull up a table that might appear a little confusing at first. It won’t take long to read the small amount of explanatory text to understand if a penalty was assessed, and if so, whether the hospital failed to meet the Medicare standards by a little or a lot.
Kaiser Health News is a project of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, an organization recognized for its factual approach to national health issues and policy analysis.
Be Informed and Stay Safe
America’s hospitals had been making steady gains regarding patient safety, though 2020 data from the CDC shows a slight step backward, attributable for the most part to COVID-19. This vexing problem is one that hospitals want to solve, as their survival depends on public confidence in them. With tools such as the ones AEPC has highlighted for you here, the confidence they seek to build can be earned.
What grade did your hospital earn?
Preventing Infections During a Hospital Stay
- Hand washing is key. A reminder to all who enter your hospital room can be as simple as saying, “I may have missed it, but I didn’t see you wash your hands.”
- Surgery incisions, IV ports, and catheters can collect harmful bacteria. Daily monitoring and removing IVs and catheters as soon as possible will help to prevent infections.
- Ask for your room to be sanitized, even if it means a little inconvenience while the cleaning staff does the job.