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Sunday, 22 November 2015 22:19

Hospital grades offer insights into cost of care for employers

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Business owners who offer health insurance to employees need to pay attention to the grades hospitals receive for quality and patient safety.

That’s according to Brett Jackson, the president of Economic Alliance for Michigan, a labor-business coalition.

The bottom line: Some Michigan hospitals are a little less safe, according to the latest findings by the Leapfrog Group that twice a year issues grades to hospitals nationwide based on their performance against a list of metrics.

Of the 80 hospitals in Michigan graded by the Leapfrog Group, 19 received an “A,” down from the 24 that got the top grade last spring. More worrisome to Jackson, whose organization partners with the Leapfrog Group, are the three hospitals that got an “F.”

“Across the state, we still have phenomenal health care being delivered by most places, but we do have a few places that are slipping,” Jackson said.

For employers that still pay the lion’s share of America’s massive health care bill, that matters because lower quality and poor performance correlates to higher costs that affect medical claims — and ultimately health insurance premiums, according to Jackson. Businesses in markets where a hospital receives a poor grade should demand improvement, he said.

Jackson notes that the average cost of admission for a hospital receiving an A from the Leapfrog Group is about $1,700, versus $1,900 for those that got a D.

“It pays to go to a facility that’s doing an excellent job,” Jackson said.

In West Michigan, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids and Mercy Health’s Hackley Campus in Muskegon both received an A in the fall 2015 Leapfrog report, as did Spectrum Health Big Rapids.

There are a number of hospitals in the region that got a B, including Metro Health in Grand Rapids, Mercy Health’s Mercy Campus in Muskegon, North Ottawa Community Hospital in Grand Haven, Sturgis Hospital, and Spectrum Health’s Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals in Grand Rapids and United Memorial in Greenville.

Borgess Medical Center and Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo, as well as Bronson Battle Creek and Spectrum Health Pennock in Hastings, each received a C in the fall Leapfrog Group report.

Jackson singles out Spectrum Health as consistently scoring well in the Leapfrog Group index and analyses by other organizations that gauge and report quality and performance data on hospitals, which is why he’s puzzled by the D received by Spectrum Health Ludington.

Ordinarily, Spectrum “has an extremely strong track record in all of their facilities. Patients are very safe in their facilities,” Jackson said.

The Ludington hospital did become part of Spectrum Health a little more than two years ago and Jackson said the poor grade this fall is perhaps a byproduct of the merger process, since some of the data used in the Leapfrog report are from 2013. It’s possible for administrative and medical leadership at any hospital to lose focus on quality and safety issues during the process of going through a merger or acquisition, he said.

Hospitals also are facing intense pressures from a shift in the economic model for health care and a move to accountable care and population health that brings with it considerable risk to manage. As hospitals work to adjust to those sea changes, there’s potential for safety scores to falter.

“Sometimes, maybe people take their eyes off the ball and they get focused on other priorities,” Jackson said. “Patient safety is one of those things where you have to be constantly vigilant.”

The Leapfrog Group’s latest grades offer a glimpse of how hospitals are doing individually and came shortly after an annual report from the Michigan Health & Hospital Association’s Keystone Center that highlights strides for the industry overall in terms of quality and patient safety.

The MHA report, released Oct. 19, found:

• There were 10,300 fewer hospital readmissions from 2013 to 2014 in Michigan, avoiding an estimated $100 million in costs.

• Improvement in critical care medicine led to a 34-percent reduction in septic shock mortality from 2011 to 2014 and a 69-percent reduction in bloodstream infections from 2004 through 2014.

• Elective births declined by 60 percent from 2010 through 2014.

• Catheter use declined by 27 percent from 2012 through 2014, lowering the risk of infection.

In an age of growing demand for transparency in health care, reports on how hospitals perform will become increasingly important for consumers — as well as for employers when it comes to selecting employee health coverage and the care network it offers.

While reports such as the Leapfrog Group’s grades can come in handy when choosing a care provider, the MHA’s Laura Wotruba said that it is one of many that now rate and rank hospital performance. Each report is a little different in the measures and methodology used, she said, noting that the plethora of rankings causes confusion not just for consumers but also for health care professionals.

“As with any report card, the final results must be interpreted in context,” said Wotruba, the MHA’s director of public affairs. “When making health care decisions, patients should use all available tools at their disposal. This includes talking with friends and family and consulting with doctors, nurses and other health care providers. The latest Leapfrog rating system is one of many other tools that patients can use when making health care decisions, including choosing a hospital, but it should not be the sole factor in making health care decisions.”

Editor’s note: The fall 2015 Leapfrog Group grades and past reports are available at

Read 2546 times Last modified on Sunday, 22 November 2015 22:47

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