N.J. drops in Leapfrog hospital safety ranking, despite 22 ‘A’ grades

New Jersey fell in national rankings of hospital safety scores, according to the biannual ranking by The Leapfrog Group.

The Washington, D.C.-based organization ranks the safety of hospitals every spring and fall, and the most recent report shows New Jersey is now No. 17 among 50 states, compared with ranking of No. 11 in Fall 2017.

The safety scores are increasingly important for the state, which has seen almost all of its hospitals consolidated into larger systems in the state or across the border in Pennsylvania.

“With more than 200,000 people dying due to errors in hospitals every year, communities must be vigilant in monitoring the safety records of their local facilities,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade helps shed light on those hospitals in need of improvement, while also highlighting the safer facilities, to make it easy for patients to choose the best option for their care.”

Linda Schwimmer, CEO and president of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute and a member of the Leapfrog board, said overall, the state isn’t doing too badly, despite its drop in nationwide ranking.

“I’m not that worried about that. Overall, when you put the A’s and the B’s together, we have more than we had before,” she said. “The biggest concerns are the ones that are constantly in the bottom half.”

New Jersey had the distinction of being one of 10 states where there is at least one “F”-grade hospital this time. This Spring, that grade went to University Hospital, which dropped from a “D.”

It’s an especially bad time for the hospital to receive the grade, since it has recently engaged in a battle over trauma designation with Trinitas Regional Medical Center, which improved back to a “C” after slipping last fall to a “D.”

“The leadership of this hospital really needs to take a hard look at their patient safety outcomes and come up with a very focused plan on addressing the issues we are seeing. Its something that has been pretty consistent over the past couple years. Their grades have been low. They’ve, since the fall of 2016, they’ve been receiving a ‘D’ and this is their first ‘F,’” Schwimmer said.

Amanda Melillo, chief of staff at the NJHCQI, said University Hospital is going in the wrong direction.

“Where other hospitals use the survey to focus in on the quality and safety, and work on these grades, (University) is going in the wrong direction,” she said.

Other Trauma I hospitals in the state include RWJBarnabas Health’s location in New Brunswick, which improved to a “B,” and Cooper University Hospital in Camden, which stayed at a “C.”

But some do not believe the scores mean much, especially for trauma centers, which have certain guidelines for safety they follow.

In an article in USA Today in 2017, Trauma surgeon Ronny Stewart, who chairs the American College of Surgeons‘ trauma committee, said trauma centers meet rigorous national standards for continuous quality improvement that are verified by ACS.

Schwimmer knows that some people do not accept the scores, but believes it is the only transparent ranking.

“I know that people will point to other measures, but Leapfrog is the only transparent hospital safety measure,” she said. “(Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), for example, reports on the system as a whole, and now we have hospitals coming together in larger systems, if you’re just giving a grade or a star for the whole system, it would really mask differences between brick-and-mortar hospitals.

“And the actual location matters to you as the patient and how you are treated and the outcomes of your stay a that actual location.”

New Jersey is one of the few regions with consistently high hospital participation in The Leapfrog Group’s surveys and had the highest rate of survey participation in 2017 for regions with over 50 targeted hospitals, at 94 percent participation, according to a statement from Leapfrog on Tuesday.

The only eligible hospitals in New Jersey that do not voluntarily provide their hospital safety data to The Leapfrog Group are East Orange General Hospital, Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus (formerly Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center), Memorial Hospital of Salem County and St. Luke’s Warren Campus.

Here are how some of the hospitals fared:

Unlike the fall, none of the state’s health systems achieved a single ranking.

Hospitals that retained their “A” grades since the fall include:

  • Bayshore Medical Center
  • CarePoint Health – Bayonne
  • Clara Maass Medical Center
  • Hackensack University Medical Center
  • Holy Name Medical Center
  • Inspira Health Network – Vineland
  • Jefferson (formerly Kennedy) Health – Washington
  • Jefferson Health – Stratford
  • Monmouth Medical Center
  • Morristown Medical Center
  • Newton Medical Center
  • Riverview Medical Center
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton
  • Saint Barnabas Medical Center
  • Shore Medical Center
  • The Valley Hospital
  • Virtua Health – Marlton
  • Virtua Health – Voorhees

The frequency of the reports gives hospitals an opportunity to quickly go up (or down) the rankings. Four, in fact, jumped into the “A” range:

From “B” to “A”:

  • Capital Health – Hopewell
  • Jersey Shore University Medical Center
  • Overlook Medical Center
  • University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro (now Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center)

From “C” to “B”:

  • Chilton Medical Center
  • Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
  • Raritan Bay Medical Center of Perth Amboy
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
  • St. Francis Medical Center
  • St. Mary’s General Hospital

From “D” to “C”:

  • Trinitas Regional Medical Center

A few did drop in grades:

From “A” to “B”:

  • Capital Health Regional Medical Center
  • CarePoint Health – Hoboken
  • Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
  • Inspira Health Network – Woodbury
  • Jefferson Health – Cherry Hill
  • Jersey City Medical Center
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital- Somerset
  • Saint Peter’s University Hospital
  • Southern Ocean Medical Center

From “A” to “C”:

  • CarePoint Health – Jersey City
  • Vritua Health – Mount Holly

From “B” to “C”:

  • HackensackUMC at Pascack Valley
  • Memorial Hospital of Salem County
  • Raritan Bay Medical Center at Old Bridge

Click the preview below to see all of the New Jersey hospitals’ scores.