Leapfrog hospital safety grades are out — and that doesn’t feel appropriate (UPDATED)

At time when health care workers are overworked and being honored for their self-sacrifice, ranking them on metrics collected before the pandemic is insensitive

By Tom Bergeron
New Jersey | Apr 30, 2020 at 2:00 pm
Editor’s Desk

The twice-annual release of the national hospital safety grades by the Leapfrog Group usually provides a small snapshot of which medical centers are deemed to be the safest.

Thursday’s release doesn’t fit that bill.

Releasing hospital safety grades during the COVID-19 epidemic — a time in which all health care workers are being recognized not only for their quality work, but self-sacrifice — is more than a bit tone-deaf.

Especially in New Jersey, one of the hardest hit areas in the country, if not the world. And especially considering the data used for the ranking was collected before the outbreak began.

The Leapfrog Group, a national leader and advocate for hospital transparency, said it did take the pandemic into account.

Leah Binder, its CEO and president, in an email response, explained why the company released the results.

“Leapfrog recognizes that national attention is focused on COVID-19 at this moment,” she said. “Hospitals’ attention is best focused on providing critical, safe care at this time. In the midst of the pandemic, patient safety must remain a priority, and we will continue to report on it. The spring 2020 grades reflect the most current information available about hospitals and their safety.”

She also explained why poor grades — a “D” or an “F” — cannot be easily explained by a hospital being required to redirect its focus to caring for COVID-19 cases.

Patient safety can and should never take a back seat,” she said. “Poor performance on safety is not correlated to the pandemic.”

After reading this column, Binder emailed an additional comment, but did not immediately reply to a request to talk directly. She wrote:

“Never have Americans been more attuned to the importance of keeping people safe in hospitals, so we are proud to continue to recognize patient safety as a top national priority. New Jersey residents can be reassured that their state contains some of the nation’s safest hospitals, with one of the highest average grades in the United States. We hope New Jersey hospitals use their high grades to honor their workforce at a time when we all owe such a debt of gratitude to them.”

A Leapfrog spokesperson said the company took the pandemic into account in another way: It did not make a media push about the results.

In addition, Leapfrog also announced it is relaxing submission standards for its next survey, too.

That’s not enough.

At a time when more than 7,200 people have died in New Jersey alone — and many health care workers in this country have gotten sick (and some have died) while working around the clock in an unprecedented effort to battle the pandemic, releasing safety grades now is inappropriate.

Especially in the states that have been the hardest hit.

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The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is determined by both objective standards (based on 28 nationally reported measures relating to patient safety and quality of care) and a section in which hospitals can voluntarily report ongoing efforts regarding patient safety.

Thursday’s report gave grades to approximately 2,600 general acute care hospitals in the county, including 68 in New Jersey. Nearly one in three nationally (32%) were given an “A” grade. New Jersey topped that mark, as 30 of its hospitals (44%) earned the top mark and 51 recorded an “A” or a “B” (75%). Those hospitals are listed below, followed by a chart of all New Jersey’s hospitals.

Where appropriate, the name of the hospital system is listed first — and the location is placed in parentheses after the hospital name:

“A” grades

  • Atlantic: Chilton Medical Center (Pompton Plains)
  • Atlantic: Morristown Medical Center
  • Atlantic: Newton Medical Center
  • CarePoint: Bayonne Medical Center
  • Englewood Hospital
  • HMH: Pascack Valley Medical Center (Westwood)
  • HMH: Jersey Shore University Medical Center (Neptune)
  • HMH: Ocean Medical Center (Brick)
  • HMH: Raritan Bay Medical Center (Perth Amboy)
  • HMH: Riverview Medical Center (Red Bank)
  • Hunterdon Medical Center (Flemington)
  • Inspira: Elmer Medical Center
  • Jefferson: Cherry Hill Hospital
  • Jefferson: Stratford Hospital
  • Jefferson: Washington Twp. Hospital (Turnersville)
  • Penn Medicine Princeton Medical Center (Plainsboro)
  • RWJBH: Monmouth Medical Center (Long Branch)
  • RWJBH: Monmouth Medical Center Southern Campus (Lakewood)
  • RWJBH: Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
  • RWJBH: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton
  • RWJBH: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Somerset (Somerville)
  • RWJBH: Saint Barnabas Medical Center (Livingston)
  • Saint Clare’s: Saint Clare’s Hospital of Denville
  • Saint Clare’s: Saint Clare’s Hospital of Dover
  • Saint Michael’s Medical Center (Newark)
  • Shore Medical Center (Somers Point)
  • St. Luke’s Warren Campus (Phillipsburg)
  • The Valley Hospital (Ridgewood)
  • Virtua: Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital (Camden)
  • Virtua: Voorhees Hospital

“B” grades

  • Atlantic: Overlook Medical Center (Summit)
  • Atlanticare: Regional Medical Center – City Campus (Atlantic City)
  • Atlanticare: Regional Medical Center – Mainland Campus (Pomona)
  • CarePoint: Christ Hospital (Jersey City)
  • CarePoint: Hoboken University Medical Center
  • CentraState Medical Center (Freehold)
  • Cooper University Hospital (Camden)
  • HMH: Mountainside Medical Center (Montclair)
  • HMH: Palisades Medical Center (North Bergen)
  • HMH: JFK Medical Center (Edison)
  • HMH: Raritan Bay Medical Center (Old Bridge)
  • Holy Name Medical Center (Teaneck)
  • Inspira: Vineland Medical Center
  • RWJBH: Community Medical Center of Toms River
  • RWJBH: Jersey City Medical Center
  • RWJBH: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (New Brunswick)
  • RWJBH: Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway
  • Saint Peter’s University Hospital (New Brunswick)
  • St. Mary’s General Hospital (Passaic)
  • Virtua: Marlton Hospital
  • Virtua: Willingboro