You’ll likely see widespread press coverage today on how New Jersey hospitals performed in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades. We did very well — with the highest percentage of A hospitals.
But equally important, in my perspective, is that New Jersey had the highest rate of participation in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey among regions with more than 50 hospitals.
Leapfrog is now firmly a part of our state’s on-going efforts to make our hospitals as safe as possible for every person who needs care. The initiative guides patients to the safest hospitals while also providing hospitals with a valuable roadmap to drive quality and safety in their institutions.
The Leapfrog Grades generate media coverage for the simple reason that consumers care about them. Health plans and hospitals do, too.
We’re approaching 20 years since the Institute of Medicine’s watershed To Err Is Human report said as many as 98,000 people die in hospitals each year as a result of preventable errors.
I still remember the shock surrounding the report, which ushered in a new era around the science of safety. It spurred policy changes, many of them hard fought. The Quality Institute’s early efforts to require public reporting of hospital safety data, for instance, sparked anger and threats of lawsuits. During those early days, our founder, David Knowlton, used to joke about looking under his car before starting the engine. At least I think he was joking.
So we have come a tremendous way. Hospitals no longer boast of cutting infection rates, but now strive for zero infections. We’re reducing harm, such as falls and pressure ulcers, and deep venous thrombosis and embolism.
As a recent Health Affairs article on patient safety noted, prevention of errors has been variable, even when we have effective solutions. Patients still experience so-called “never events,” such as wrong-site surgery. Too many still get the wrong medication, with sometimes deadly consequences.
In New Jersey, Leapfrog awarded one of our hospitals a D and another an F. And no one can ignore the recent headlines about the deaths of medically fragile children from adenovirus in a pediatric facility.
So, we need to keep pushing for new scientific and policy approaches. As a regional leader for Leapfrog — I also serve on the Leapfrog board — we need to keep moving the finish line. The goal ultimately is not straight As. It’s straight zeros. As in zero infections. Zero medication mistakes. Zero preventable deaths. Zero preventable harm.