Errors and Infections Still a Serious Problem in American Hospitals:

November 28, 2012

The latest update to the Hospital Safety Score, the A, B, C, D or F scores assigned to U.S. hospitals based on preventable medical errors, injuries, accidents, and infections, shows that hospitals are making some progress, but many still have a long way to go to reliably deliver safe health care. For the first time, the Hospital Safety Score now identifies D and F hospitals that represent the most hazardous environments for patients in need of care. The Hospital Safety Score was compiled under the guidance of the nation's leading experts on patient safety, and administered by the independent, national nonprofit organization The Leapfrog Group. Today's Hospital Safety Score update accounts for the data updated over the last six months, most covering hospital performance in 2011, and uses a modified methodology based on research and public comments.

"Everybody has a role in improving this terrible problem with safety in American hospitals," says Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, which administers the Hospital Safety Score. "Consumers, patients, families of patients, employers, unions, and hospitals themselves can all make a difference if we resolve here and now to make patient safety a national priority."At least 180,000 patients are killed every year from errors, accidents, injuries, and infections in American hospitals.

While there are several other hospital ratings in the market—many of which use Leapfrog data for their calculations—the Hospital Safety Score is unique in that it is offered free to the public, along with a full analysis of the data and methodology used to calculate each individual hospital's Hospital Safety Score. The Hospital Safety Score relies on the advice of the nation's foremost patient safety experts, whose participation is a voluntary contribution to Leapfrog's nonprofit mission.

"Leapfrog's primary mission is to create a more transparent health care system, where consumers can access the information they need to make critical decisions about where to seek care and where that in turn will drive a much needed change in the market," says Keith Reissaus, board chair of The Leapfrog Group. "Leapfrog is unbiased in telling the whole truth about how hospitals are doing, no matter how much discomfort that causes many of them. Consumers deserve A hospitals and someday we may see all hospitals earning A's. However, we are not there yet."

To advance that market for change, and in conjunction with this round of updated Hospital Safety Scores, Leapfrog is also announcing:

  • The Hospital Safety Score mobile app: The app uses GPS tracking to advise users on the grades of nearby hospitals, or permit searching in other areas. To download the free app, visit
  • Advice from the Altarum Institute on how employers can and do use hospital ratings: Altarum Institute ( integrates objective research and client-centered consulting skills to deliver comprehensive, systems-based solutions that improve health and health care. Altarum is issuing a white paper on how employers and other large purchasers of health care use information from Leapfrog and the Hospital Safety Score, as well as other public ratings, to improve the experience of care for their employees.
  • The Leapfrog Group's new recommendation for people hurt by errors, accidents, and injuries to get action: Leapfrog recommends that people who want to share their stories about their experiences in hospitals contact ProPublica, an independent journalism organization that is investigating patient safety problems. ProPublica has set up an interactive web survey and special hotline for this purpose at or (917) 512-0241.

People can check their local hospital's Hospital Safety Score online or on the free mobile app at They should discuss the Hospital Safety Score with their doctor and plan to remain vigilant, even in hospitals with high scores. "There are many important considerations when choosing a hospital, but for many people, safety comes first," says Binder.

Calculated under the guidance of The Leapfrog Group's nine-member Blue Ribbon Expert Panel, the Hospital Safety Score uses 26 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to produce a single score representing a hospital's overall success in keeping patients safe from infections, injuries, and medical and medication errors. The panel includes: John Birkmeyer (University of Michigan), Ashish Jha (Harvard University), Lucian Leape (Harvard University), Arnold Milstein (Stanford University), Peter Pronovost (Johns Hopkins University), Patrick Romano (University of California, Davis), Sara Singer (Harvard University), Tim Vogus (Vanderbilt University), and Robert Wachter (University of California, San Francisco).

The Hospital Safety Score was first launched in June 2012. Over the summer, the Blue Ribbon Expert Panel convened to review the methodology in the light of the first launch, and considered commentary from experts and associations including the American Hospital Association, conducted data analyses, and looked at additional evidence. The Blue Ribbon Expert Panel recommended maintaining the original scoring methodology, with the exception of two alterations that give certain hospitals more credit on two of the measures. The Leapfrog Board approved the recommended methodology. Today's updated release reflects the updated methodology, updated data from the hospitals, and the Leapfrog Board of Directors' assignment of letter grades.


Key Findings

  • Of the 2618 general hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score, 790 earned an A, 678 earned a B, 1004 earned a C, 121 earned a D and 25 earned an F.
  • 58 percent of hospitals maintained the same grade level as they had in the scores issued in June. Another 34 percent of hospitals changed by one grade level (some higher, some lower). About eight percent of hospitals showed more dramatic change, moving two grade levels or more up or down.
  • A wide range of hospitals earned A's with no one class of hospitals (i.e., teaching hospitals, public hospitals, etc.) dominating among those showing the highest safety scores. Hospitals earning an A include academic medical centers New York Presbyterian Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Mayo Clinic. Many rural hospitals earned an A, including Geisinger Medical Center and Blessing Hospital.
  • Hospitals with myriad national accolades, such as Massachusetts General Hospital, Duke University Hospital, and Cleveland Clinic Florida each earned an A.
  • A scores were also earned by hospitals serving highly vulnerable, impoverished, and/or health-challenged populations, such as Bellevue Hospital Center and Detroit Receiving Hospital.

In analyzing statewide performance, both Massachusetts and Maine showed outstanding hospital safety results. With 83 percent of Massachusetts hospitals and 80 percent of hospitals in Maine awarded A's it's clear these states have each put a priority on safety in hospital care.

For more information about the Hospital Safety Score, please visit


*Adverse Events in Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries; Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General; November 2010


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