The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades come out next week. Those grades are based, in part, on information from the Leapfrog Hospital Survey. Once again, we have a 100 percent participation rate on the Survey by New Jersey hospitals. Our state’s hospitals show their commitment to quality, safety, and transparency every time they complete the Survey.
For 2021, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey includes a new section that will provide us with a greater understanding of existing inequities in the provision of health care. Inequitable care is low-quality care. Thus, we must identify it and together address it. Collecting data is the first step on the path forward. The questions asked and the research references provided in the Survey are a valuable guide to hospitals for the type of data they should collect, strategies for collection and verification, and ways to use the data.
Specifically, the survey asks: whether hospitals collect demographic data; how they collect and verify the data; if they have identified inequities; if and how they stratify safety measures based on demographic data; whether they use the stratified data to develop quality improvement projects designed to reduce inequities; and whether the data is shared with the hospital’s board of directors or shared publicly on the hospital’s website.
The expansion of the Leapfrog survey will further engage health care professionals in this critical work. Data on race, ethnicity, primary language, gender, disability status, and other demographic categories are necessary to enable measurement and public reporting as well as to determine what actions to take to achieve health care equity.
We know the data we currently have is lacking. We need better collection protocols. The definitions used, for instance, are inconsistent. In addition, the information reported is often gathered by indirect means rather than directly from the patient. The staff members responsible for collecting race and ethnicity information should be trained on exactly why the data are important and how it will be used to improve the lives of their patients. Patients should be meaningfully informed as well.
Better data collection by federal, state, and local government as well as by health care systems and payers will empower us to make necessary policy and strategic changes to achieve health equity. In our jointly released report with BioNJ, Emerging from COVID-19: An Action Plan for a Healthier State (recommendation #21), we called for increasing the tracking and reporting of health outcomes and public health data by race, ethnicity, occupation, and language. Our aim is to use the data to enable informed decision making at all levels of health care and within public health to reduce health inequities. This data will help tailor interventions and zero in on problems at both a facility and systemic level. Leapfrog, which collects data by individual hospital, will be an essential part of the effort to improve the health care system for everyone. We encourage other organizations to take similar steps.
At the Quality Institute, we appreciate the staff commitment and time involved in answering the Leapfrog Survey and collecting data. We believe the expansion of the Survey is essential, and we’re here to provide support for our members engaged in this important work.