UNION — An online article citing Wallace Thomson Hospital one of the “25 worst hospitals in the U.S.” could have been misleading to readers for a number of reasons according to both the hospital’s CEO and a spokeswoman for the group that compiled the data used in the story.
The article from health.com with the headline “25 Worst Hospitals in the U.S. Is Yours On the List?” was posted Dec. 2, 2012, and has gotten local attention via online social media.
Wallace Thomson Hospital was No. 18 on health.com’s list.
Health.com compiled the list based on data collected by the 13-year-old Leapfrog Group, which focuses on improving safety and quality in hospitals. Last summer, the Leapfrog Group launched its Hospital Safety Score initiative, giving hospitals a letter grade based solely on ratings for patient safety.
Hospital Safety Scores are calculated under the guidance of a nine-member Leapfrog Blue Ribbon Expert Panel of patient safety experts including Harvard University’s Dr. Lucian Leape, University of Michigan’s Dr. John Birkmeyer and Stanford University’s Dr. Arnold Milstein.
The panel selected 26 measures of publicly available hospital safety data, analyzed the data and determined the weight of each measure based on evidence, opportunity for improvement and impact. Information from secondary sources supplemented any missing data to give hospitals as much credit as possible toward their safety score.
The scores for approximately 2,600 general acute care hospitals were published in June 2012 and updated in November 2012. Each hospital received a letter grade, and Wallace Thomson Hospital received an F, scoring in the bottom 1 percent.
Last Thursday, Union Hospital District CEO Tim Merritt wrote a letter in response to the listing.
“This organization rates hospitals based on various information they received through paper surveys,” Merritt wrote. “Their information that makes the conclusion about certain hospitals is simply based on gathering information from all surveys from various groups that compares all hospitals regardless of their demographics and the sizes of their facilities.”
Merritt stated in the letter that the Leapfrog Group refused to let the district know the certain questions about an organization’s services provided to patients, and if there is a column or a question that is not applicable, it ranks the hospital in a lower category.
Erica Mobley — program manager at the Leapfrog Group — explained in a telephone interview Friday that the Hospital Safety Score only measures in terms of general patient safety, without looking at the hospital’s success rate in terms of performance of procedures.
“General patient safety is important to consider, but there are other important factors to consider as well,” Mobley said.
Mobley also said the scores are based on the most recent publicly available data.
“It’s always going to be a little old because the hospital collects the data for a year,” Mobley said, adding that after data is collected, there is still the calculation and publishing process. “It’s possible the hospital may have made significant improvements since then.”
While Wallace Thomson scored low in areas such as ICU Physician Staffing and Wounds Split Open After Surgery, the hospital scored perfect in some areas, such as Antibiotic Discontinued After 24 Hours.
Mobley said the Leapfrog Group’s hope is that one day all hospitals will receive a grade A, which would show that the Hospital Safety Score had spurred improvement.
Mobley also disputed some of the statements made by Merritt in his letter.
“We do make everything available,” she said. “No other rating organization has this level of transparency.”
The full scoring methodology can be found at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org under “methodology.”
Mobley said the hospital was notified of its scores about a month before they were published, and the hospital was given an opportunity to go to the website, sign in with a user name and password, and check the data. She said many hospitals took advantage of this opportunity and were able to clear up some uncertainties, but the Union Hospital District did not. She said the Leapfrog Group would welcome contact with the Union Hospital District.
Mobley also mentioned that questions or categories for which hospitals are labeled “not applicable” are not counted against them in any way during scoring.
Merritt defended the reputation of the hospital.
“Our hospital’s reputation and its mission are measured by a three-day on-site visit and inspection of our quality assurance and patient outcomes from the Joint Commission,” Merritt stated, explaining that the Joint Commission is a nationally accrediting body which measures most hospitals in the United States. “Our accreditation was recently re-awarded with exceptional findings that stated that we are in substantial compliance and provide quality patient care in a safe environment.”
In addition, Merritt stated that after Blue Cross reviewed a year’s worth of data, they gave Wallace Thomson a rate increase based on quality findings. Merritt also pointed out that the district is held to certain standards by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid systems, which requires quarterly data of quality standards for review.
Mobley said she had read the letter written by Merritt, and she acknowledged that points he made about the hospital’s accreditation from the Joint Commission and Blue Cross were likely true, again pointing out that the Hospital Safety Score only grades in general patient safety.
Staff Writer Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-427-1234, ext. 29, or by email at email@example.com.