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The Leapfrog Group’s spring hospital safety grades find ‘dramatic’ rise in infections

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Three types of infections have seen significant increases, according to the organization. CEO Leah Binder says the findings ‘should stop hospitals in their tracks.'

Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, says hospitals should be concerned about the spike in some infections. (Photo courtesy of The Leapfrog Group)

Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, says hospitals should be concerned about the spike in some infections. (Photo courtesy of The Leapfrog Group)

Hospitals have witnessed significant increases in some infections, according to new reporting from The Leapfrog Group.

The group, which examines safety metrics at health systems, released its spring 2023 Hospital Safety Grade data Wednesday. The report examines hospital performance in late 2021 and 2022 and compares it to how hospitals fared before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals continue to see high levels of three common infections: resistant Staphylococcus aureus (commonly called MRSA), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI).

Health systems saw five-year highs in these infections during the COVID-19 pandemic, and The Leapfrog Group says hospitals need to do better to keep patients safe.

Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a statement that the “dramatic” rise in hospital-acquired infections “should stop hospitals in their tracks—infections like these can be life or death for some patients.”

“We recognize the tremendous strain the pandemic put on hospitals and their workforce, but alarming findings like these indicate hospitals must recommit to patient safety and build more resilience,” Binder said.

The Leapfrog Group found substantial increases in all three infections compared to the pre-pandemic period. Central line infections rose by 60%, MRSA infections increased by 37%, and catheter-associated urinary tract infections jumped by 19%.

In more encouraging news, hospitals reported fewer Clostridioides difficile (C. Diff) infections from spring 2021 to spring 2023, and surgical site infections remained largely unchanged, the group said.

The Leapfrog Group also assigned grades to nearly 3,000 U.S. hospitals on their performance, and 29% of hospitals earned an “A” grade, while 26% received a “B.”

Nearly half of the hospitals surveyed fell short of an A or a B, as 39% received a “C”, 6% received a “D”, and under 1% received a failing grade (“F”).

In its analysis, The Leapfrog Group also examines several patient experience measures. The organization found noteworthy drops in communication about medicine (a 4.28% decline) and staff responsiveness (3.46%).

Researchers have cited the need for hospitals to improve communication with patients, including their discharge plan. Many patients aren’t getting good communication about medications or their care plans, according to a study published by Jama Network Open last month.

Last fall, The Leapfrog Group recognized its 10th anniversary of the hospital safety grades. In an interview with Chief Healthcare Executive®, Binder recognized that hospitals have made strides over the past decade, but there is still room for improvement.

“We have some cautious optimism. We think as a country we might be on the right track in addressing patient safety effectively,” Binder said. “We haven’t gotten there. There’s a lot more work to do. We still have a tremendous problem with patient safety.”

Federal officials have said the COVID-19 pandemic has eroded gains in patient safety.

In an analysis published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2022, they cited sharp increases in hospital-acquired infections. While federal officials acknowledge that hospitals encountered unprecedented challenges in the pandemic, they said they were still troubled that declines in patient safety metrics occurred so quickly.

The Leapfrog Group report found these 10 states had the highest percentage of hospitals earning an “A” grade in safety: New Jersey, Idaho, Utah, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, Colorado, Virginia and Massachusetts.

In June 2022, Leah Binder, CEO of The Leapfrog Group, spoke with Chief Healthcare Executive about hospital safety. See portions of that conversation in this video.


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