Metro-East News

Group rates local hospitals; state spokesman says consumers shouldn't rely on 1 rating

Opening day at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon

The new HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital opens in O’Fallon IL as the facility in Belleville IL closed Saturday.
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The new HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital opens in O’Fallon IL as the facility in Belleville IL closed Saturday.

A private, national group that was founded by large companies has released its latest patient safety grades for hospitals, and none of the metro-east hospitals received an A.

The Leapfrog Group of Washington, D.C., gave Anderson Hospital in Maryville a C grade, while four other area hospitals received a B grade: Alton Memorial Hospital, Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City, Memorial Hospital in Belleville and St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon.

In St. Louis, St. Louis University Hospital received a C grade from Leapfrog and Barnes-Jewish Hospital received a B.

Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Highland and Touchette Regional Hospital in Centreville were not on the Leapfrog list.

Danny Chun, a spokesman for the Illinois Health and Hospital Association, said his organization welcomes reviews of hospitals but notes that there are many different hospital rating services, and consumers should be wary of relying on just one.

“It’s good that we have different sources of information but we do caution consumers and patients that they should not rely on any one source of information,” he said.

Chun said the hospital association advises people to talk to their doctor about which hospital to use.

“It’s kind of a hodgepodge,” Chun said. “There’s no gold standard yet of rating and grading a hospital.”

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association doesn’t choose one rating service over the other. Chun said along with the Leapfrog rating, consumers can get hospital rating information from the Illinois Hospital Report Card, which is produced by the Illinois Department of Public Health; Hospital Compare, which is produced by the federal government; The Joint Commission, a private, nonprofit group, and even Consumer Reports magazine.

“There are so many different ratings and rankings out there with different methodologies and they’re not consistent,” Chun said. One hospital can get a high rating on one ranking and a lower ranking on another rating service, he pointed out.

Twice a year, Leapfrog gives about 2,500 hospitals grades from A to F and describes its rating system as the only one that is “focused entirely on errors, accidents, injuries and infections that collectively are the third leading cause of death in the United States.” The grades are based on 27 factors such as how often patients get an infection after colon surgery or suffer a collapsed lung after getting a feeding tube.

The companies that founded Leapfrog spend millions for health care for their employees and wanted a way to monitor the hospitals that treat their employees, according to Erica Mobley, the director of operations for Leapfrog, which is a nonprofit organization. The founding companies include The Boeing Co. and FedEx.

Mobley acknowledged that the grading system is “certainly not perfect” but added, “We think it’s very important that people have access to this very good information and that they can use it as one tool in choosing a hospital.”

Some hospitals, including two BJC Healthcare hospitals, Alton Memorial Hospital and Memorial Hospital in Belleville, do not participate in a Leapfrog survey, which is one of the sources used to grade hospitals. Leapfrog says about half of the 27 grading areas are based on data from federal government sources. Also, Leapfrog said hospitals are not punished for not participating in the Leapfrog survey.

But hospitals have raised questions about the grading system, and the Chicago Tribune reported that St. Anthony Hospital in Chicago filed a lawsuit in October against Leapfrog over a C grade, saying it was “wrong” and based on incorrect data. Leapfrog called the lawsuit “meritless” and urged St. Anthony to withdraw the “wasteful legal action.”

Anne Thomure, spokeswoman for Memorial Hospital, said in an email that some data used to grade hospitals can be “inaccurate” in gauging a hospital’s performance.

“Those hospitals that choose not to complete Leapfrog’s Hospital Survey do not receive scores for those metrics and their weights are reassigned to the remaining safety grade metrics,” Thomure said in her statement.

“There have been publicized concerns about relying on methodologies that utilize self-reporting on questionnaires as well as about the validity of approaches that rely on administrative data to measure quality outcomes. These data were not intended to be used for hospital comparisons and research has shown that many such metrics provide inaccurate and misleading information about performance,” Thomure said.

“Memorial Regional Health Services is committed to patient safety, and we support efforts to make quality outcomes data available to patients and to the public. We encourage people to seek out data on Medicare’s Hospital Compare site.”

Thomure noted that just this week it was announced that Memorial hospitals in Belleville and Shiloh have attained Magnet recognition as part of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Recognition Program. This recognizes excellence in nursing and is the highest honor an organization can receive for professional nursing practice. Only about 8 percent of the hospitals in the country have such a designation, according to a news release.

“This voluntary credentialing program for hospitals recognizes excellence in nursing and is the highest honor an organization can receive for professional nursing practice,” the news release stated.

A spokesman for Alton Memorial Hospital said his hospital’s position on Leapfrog mirrors its sister hospital in Belleville.

Patti Fischer is the new interim president and CEO of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in O'Fallon.

Patti Fischer, interim CEO for St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon, said in an email, “It should also be noted that patient care is a complicated process with many different factors for each individual, making it challenging to evaluate with simple letter grades of one company.”

“A ‘B’ grade, derived from the complex data used for this survey, indicates a high level of safety and quality, and is among the highest with other facilities in the St. Louis Metro region. HSHS St. Elizabeth’s is strongly committed to providing quality patient care and continues to proactively manage numerous initiatives to build on this positive rating and further improve quality and patient safety,” Fischer said in her statement.

“The hospital supports the availability of numerous data reporting sources to help consumers make informed decisions about their health care.”

Fischer noted that St. Elizabeth’s has “received quality recognitions such as The Joint Commission’s Pioneers in Quality Data Contributor recognition in December 2017 and named a Blue Distinction Center+ for Maternity Care 2018 by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois for expertise in delivering improved patient safety and better health outcomes.”

Anderson Hospital spokeswoman Natalie Head said in an email the hospital “has a robust quality improvement program that assists the organization in continually assessing and enhancing clinical performance.

“While we have been recognized for our outstanding clinical performance from other entities similar to Leapfrog, we do not focus specifically on ratings from these organizations,” she said in her statement.

“We are also focused on meeting and maintaining hospital ‘gold standards’ of The Joint Commission, an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States.”

Anderson received full accreditation in October from The Joint Commission, Head said.

"At Gateway Regional Medical Center, we have a strong commitment to quality and safety. We have not only been recognized by Leapfrog, but also The Joint Commission," spokeswoman Beth Ann Gailey said in a statement.

There are several reasons why some metro-east hospitals are not graded by Leapfrog.

St. E's file
St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in O’Fallon. BND file photo

Memorial Hospital East, which opened in 2016, was not on the list because it is a new hospital, while Leapfrog said it did not have enough data for Touchette and St. Joseph’s in Breese. St. Joseph’s in Highland is a “critical access” hospital that keeps fewer than 25 beds and serves patients from rural areas, and Leapfrog doesn’t grade these types of hospitals.

Mobley, the Leapfrog official, recommends that if you are hospitalized, you have someone go with you to “speak up for you if they sense something might be wrong.”

“It’s important for people to know that even in an A hospital mistakes still happen, so while people should always choose the safest hospital available to them, they should also take steps to protect themselves and stay alert and aware in the hospital so that an error hopefully doesn’t impact them.”

Mike Koziatek: 618-239-2502, @MikeKoziatekBND