Illinois ranks 27th in the country for its percentage of hospitals with high marks for safety, with a Waukegan hospital earning an F and one of Chicago’s most prestigious institutions, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, notching a C, according to new ratings.
Overall, about 29% of Illinois hospitals earned A grades, about the same percentage as the last time grades were released in the fall by the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, which issues the grades twice a year. That’s down, however, from a year ago, when Leapfrog ranked Illinois 17th in the country for hospital safety, with 35% of Illinois hospitals achieving A grades.
The Leapfrog grades are based on more than 30 measures of patient safety from the federal government, a Leapfrog survey and other sources. Measures include falls and trauma, hand hygiene and death rates among surgical patients with serious, treatable conditions. Hospitals that earn high grades often tout those grades in their advertising, hoping to attract more patients and gain a competitive edge over other hospitals.
One hospital in Illinois, Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan, earned an F — a mark with which the hospital disagrees. The hospital has not had any patients with hospital-acquired infections in nine months, according to a statement from the hospital. Some of the data on which the grade is based is more than two years old, and the hospital does not participate in Leapfrog’s survey, the statement said.
“Leapfrog’s assessment does not reflect the dedication of our physicians, nurses and staff,” the statement said. “We continuously focus on safety, quality and our patients’ experience as part of our overall efforts to enhance clinical performance.”
Five Chicago area hospitals earned D’s including Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago, Roseland Community Hospital in Chicago and Community First Medical Center in Chicago.
Advocate said in a statement Monday: “We firmly believe that meaningful quality and safety data should be transparent to the public. However, accurately measuring this data can be challenging, and some organizations use limited methodologies that don’t always reflect the quality of care or the varied factors that contribute to patient outcomes.”
Attempts to reach Roseland and Community First for comment were not immediately successful Monday.
Even some of the area’s biggest name hospitals earned middling marks. Northwestern Memorial and Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood both got Cs.
Northwestern’s grade is down from a B a year ago, and is somewhat surprising considering that a separate rating by U.S. News & World Report has named Northwestern Memorial the top hospital in Illinois for 10 consecutive years, and the federal government has given the hospital 5 out of 5 stars for quality. A number of organizations rate hospitals each year, using different methodologies.
Northwestern said in a statement Monday, “We are committed to providing high quality, safe, patient-centered care … We appreciate the ongoing efforts by Leapfrog to improve the usefulness and accessibility of information for consumers.”
The report, however, also contained some bright spots. University of Chicago Medical Center earned its 21st consecutive A grade.
“There’s nothing more important than safety,” said Dr. Stephen Weber, University of Chicago Medicine chief medical officer and executive vice president. Some patients and providers “take it for granted that American health care is safe, and the fact of the matter is it can always be safer.” Not all hospitals are equally safe for patients, he said.
Leaders at University of Chicago Medical Center regularly look at hundreds of streams of data — such as how long patients are staying in the hospital, hand sanitizing among staff and the proportion of patients who’ve met with case managers — to try to understand what can be improved, he said.
Efforts to boost safety also paid off in the latest ratings for St. Bernard Hospital and Health Care Center in Englewood. In the fall, the South Side hospital was the only one in the state to get an F grade. This time around, it earned a C.
“We reviewed every element of the Leapfrog survey and grading methodology and then we were able to target areas where we could make immediate improvements,” said Michael Richardson, chief clinical quality and patient safety officer at St. Bernard.
For example, it’s now been more than a year since any St. Bernard patients had a central line bloodstream infection or urinary catheter infection, he said.
The hospital also invested in an electronic hand hygiene system to help monitor how often employees sanitize their hands at dispensers throughout the hospital. And the hospital has adopted a process called “Just Culture,” which aims to create an environment in which individuals are encouraged to report mistakes so that systemic issues can be fixed.
St. Bernard is pleased to no longer have an F grade but will keep working to improve, Richardson said.
“It was a difficult badge to wear. With the employees, it was a little disheartening,” Richardson said of the previous F grade. “This will be a real morale booster for inside the hospital, but we accept there’s a lot of A-grade hospitals out there, and that’s where we want to be.”