Three Southern California hospitals – including well-regarded UCLA Medical Center – received failing grades on a new nationwide patient safety report card.
The "F" grade, issued by independent nonprofit The Leapfrog Group, was attacked by a University of California, Los Angeles chief medical official and defended by the nonprofit scoring group, which released its report Wednesday.
The Hospital Safety Score examines largely preventable harm to patients that occurs at medical centers, using 26 measures of publicly available federal safety data to give hospitals a single score.
"We're honed in on one thing, which is how likely is a hospital to harm a patient from an injury or an accident or an infection," said Leah Binder, chief executive officer of The Leapfrog Group, an organization founded by employers who purchase health care. "We're really looking exclusively at patient safety."
In addition to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Western Medical Center in Anaheim and Palo Verde Hospital in Blythe, on the Arizona border, received "F" grades on the Hospital Safety Score. The ratings are available to the public at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org.
The three Southern California institutions were among 25 nationwide that got an "F" on the survey.
Dr. Tom Rosenthal, chief medical officer of UCLA Medical Center, defended his hospital and questioned Leapfrog's report.
In statement, he noted that hospital report cards are inconsistent across the variety of reporting organizations, with some hospitals earning high scores in one report and low scores in another. But in comments to a publication targeted at health care executives, Rosenthal was more critical, as were heads of other hospitals.
"UCLA is clearly not an 'F' hospital in quality and safety," said Rosenthal, according to HealthLeaders Media. "And if UCLA is not an 'F' hospital, it seems to me there must be flaws in the Leapfrog methodology." Rosenthal told the publication that a 2010 case of air embolism in a liver transplant patient pulled the hospital's score down.
Binder, pictured at right, said that Leapfrog's "F" grade for UCLA Medical Center was based on in part on its below-average performance on seven of 10 outcome measures – "incidents of things you don't want to have happen … like leaving a sponge in accidentally."
"That is actually dramatic. Unfortunately, they're one of 25 hospitals in the country that we gave an 'F' to. Having said that, I have no doubt they will improve," Binder said.
"We do feel consumers have a right to know the federal data on this hospital is telling us a very frightening story," she added.
In a press release announcing the scores, Leapfrog said it was focused on improving transparency in hospital data.
"Leapfrog is unbiased in telling the whole truth about how hospitals are doing, no matter how much discomfort that causes many of them," Keith Reissaus, chairman of The Leapfrog Group's board, said in the release. "Consumers deserve ‘A’ hospitals and someday we may see all hospitals earning ‘A's.’ However, we are not there yet."
The scores, first launched in June, mark the first time Leapfrog has given a "D" or "F" score to any hospital. Institutions that could have received such a grade – 132 hospitals including UCLA's – were listed as "grade pending" in June.
After the methodology alterations since June, 34 percent of hospitals changed a grade, according to Leapfrog.
A total of 2,618 hospitals across the country were scored, with 790 earning an "A," 678 a "B," 1,004 a "C," and 121 a "D."
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on LA's Westside, another highly regarded hospital, received a "C."
Many Southern California institutions received "A" grades, including all in the region operated by Kaiser Permanente.
Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center in the Jefferson Park area received a "D," as did Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, Chapman Medical Center in Orange, and Victor Valley Community Hospital in Victorville.
California was ranked 11th of the 50 states in the percentage of hospitals that received an "A" grade – 37 percent. Massachusetts scored on top, with 83 percent of its hospitals getting an "A."
Leapfrog was founded in 2000 by a group of employers, including Boeing, GM and GE, to help health care purchasers structure contracts. GE is a partial owner of NBCUniversal, which owns NBC4.