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In a first, Leapfrog Group's hospital safety grades rank the top metro areas


The organization releases its first listing of the top metro areas for hospitals with high grades for patient safety. Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group, talks about the new rankings.

Twice a year, The Leapfrog Group releases its “Hospital Safety Grades,” and the report evaluates hospitals on patient safety.

The group released its spring 2024 Hospital Safety Grades Wednesday morning, which also includes a compilation of the states with the highest percentage of hospitals who have earned an “A” grade.

But this ranking also includes a new element. For the first time, The Leapfrog Group includes a list of top metro areas with the highest percentage of top hospitals. And some top metro areas are smaller areas.

The Allentown, Pennsylvania metro area, which includes Bethlehem and Easton, ranked at the top of the list, with 72.7% of the region’s hospitals earning “A” grades. Winston-Salem, North Carolina ranked second, with 71.6%.

Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, tells Chief Healthcare Executive® that the patient safety organization saw a need to take a closer look at healthcare performance beyond the state level.

“All healthcare is local,” Binder says.

Over time, Binder says the safety grades are being seen as part of their community profile. She says the effort is an attempt to “really be responsive to the way people think about these grades.”

Binder also says that the ranking of metro areas also is done with an eye toward spurring improvement.

“With hospitals, they're competitive people that work there, and they want their community to be the safest in the country,” she says. ‘They want to be the safest one in their community, and they want their community to be the safest one in the country. So it just kind of fosters … what we think of as healthy competition for the very safest care for their patients.”

(See part of our conversation with Leah Binder in this video. The story continues below.)

Unexpected findings

The ranking of metro areas did offer some interesting insights, Binder says.

Binder says she was surprised to see some metro areas that ranked highly, even though they are based in states that don’t fare as well in the Leapfrog Group rankings.

For example, the New Orleans metro area ranked third in the country, with 68.8% of the region’s hospitals earning an “A” grade. But Louisiana ranked 17th in the spring state rankings (33% of the state’s hospitals get an “A”).

“Some states that do very well as a state didn't necessarily have all the metro areas that did well, and vice versa,” Binder says. “There were some metro areas in states that aren't particularly stellar, but they do well.”

In perhaps another surprise, the list of the top metro areas isn’t a mirror of the largest metro areas in the country. In addition to Allentown topping the list, other smaller metro areas ranking near the top include Boise City, Idaho and Provo, Utah. She says the rankings underscore the fact that hospitals and regions with smaller sizes and profiles can excel in protecting patients.

“Safety is confounding,” Binder says. “In my humble opinion, safety is the most important thing about a hospital.

“As a patient, you really don't want to go to a hospital that doesn't have a strong patient safety record,” she says. “Because no matter how good the surgeons and the doctors and the nurses are, and there are extraordinarily good surgeons and doctors and nurses in this country, and brilliant people, no matter how good they are, if the hospital isn't safe, you are at very serious risk of harm. Not from necessarily the treatment you're getting or the surgery, but from mistakes and errors and accidents and preventable problems.”

The state report

While the new rankings focus on metro areas, The Leapfrog Group’s spring grades once again include state rankings.

For the second time in a row, Utah ranked above all other states, with 57.7% of hospitals getting “A” grades.

“I know the hospitals in Utah have put real effort around patient safety,” Binder says. “They had in the past, but I think something's working. And so I'm very excited for people in Utah in particular. Those are really terrific hospitals anyway. And I'm glad to see them emerging on the top of the list, for the second time in a row.”

Virginia placed second in the state rankings, with 56.3% of the state’s hospitals receiving an “A” grade. Utah and Virginia are the only states where the majority of hospitals earned an “A.”

“There's some hospital systems that have put enormous focus on patient safety and really lead the country,” she says. “And you see the results in hospital after hospital, over and over, which is not easy to do. It is not easy to be consistently an ‘A’. That shows leadership. That’s really about the CEO on down, saying absolutely every minute of every day, we are going to obsess about our patients.”

Binder also said she was excited about Alaska’s emergence among the top states for the first time.

“It's gotta be tough to travel outside of Alaska to get care,” Binder says. “So it's especially important that people in Alaska have choices within their state that are showing outstanding dedication to their patients.”

Following are the rankings of the top metro areas and top states in The Leapfrog Group’s Spring 2024 Hospital Safety Grades. The percentage of hospitals with an “A” grade is listed in parentheses.

Top Metro Areas

Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, Pa. (72.7%)

Winston-Salem, N.C. (71.4%)

New Orleans-Metairie, La. (68.8%)

Boise City, Idaho (66.7%)

Chattanooga, Tenn. (66.7%)

Provo-Orem, Utah (66.7%)

Raleigh-Cary, N.C. (62.5%)

Charleston-North Charleston, S.C. (62.5%)

Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. (61.9%)

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. (60%)

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va. (60%)

Knoxville, Tenn. (60%)

Top states

Utah (57.7%)

Virginia (56.3%)

New Jersey (44.8%)

Colorado (44.4%)

Rhode Island (44.4%)

Alaska (42.9%)

Pennsylvania (42.7%)

North Carolina (42.2%)

South Carolina (42.0%)

Maine (41.2%)

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