TAMPA, Fla. — The hospital safety grades are out from an independent watchdog group.

You can see across Tampa Bay how hospitals rank when it comes to keeping patients safe.

10Investigates’ Courtney Robinson looked into whether these grades and information from this group are really what you should rely on when it comes to healthcare choices.

The answers varied based on hospital systems. 

BayCare Hospital System took part in the survey for the first time, and its hospitals received lower grades. For example, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa received a ‘C’ and St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg was graded a ‘D.’

St. Joseph’s Hospital ranks among the top 100 hospitals in the country according to IBM Watson Health.

A representative for BayCare says they consider that the gold standard and says all quality metrics are posted for patients to see on their website. 

“BayCare’s number one priority is quality outcomes, including safe patient care. We participated in the Leapfrog survey for the first time this year. The survey questions are open to interpretation and are primarily based on process. Health systems can still achieve great outcomes through different process methods. In our journey to be best-in-class, we will continue to measure quality outcomes through multiple data sources including IBM Watson Health, which ranks BayCare as one of the top-performing large health systems in the nation," BayCare Health System wrote in a statement.

Other hospitals in the Tampa Bay area that also received 'D' ratings included: Mease Dunedin Hospital, Morton Plant Hospital, Morton Plant North Bay Hospital and Bartow Regional Medical Center.

According to The Leapfrog Group, 440,000 people die from infections because of hospital safety problems. They say the survey of hospitals allows the public to make safer health decisions. The safety grades are released twice a year and are based on voluntary survey answers from hospitals and data that is available to the public. The data includes analysis of processes for patient safety, preventable errors, accidents, injuries and infections.

Patients can check out past scores, improvement and which categories a hospital did not do well in the survey.

Tampa General Hospital, for example, saw its grade improve from a 'C' in Spring 2019 to a 'B' for fall 2019. Lisa Greene, a spokesperson for the hospital, provided a statement, which reads in part:

"We are pleased that Tampa General Hospital has achieved a B rating in Leapfrog. A more comprehensive look at the Leapfrog ratings would note that the methodology does not accurately account for how sick our patients are. As one of America’s essential hospitals, we also care for everyone, including the sickest and most complex patients.

Because we aim to have our work match the best hospitals in the country, we benchmark our quality data against other U.S. academic medical centers as a member of the Vizient University Health System Consortium, the largest such network in the country. For 2019, we rank in the top 10th percentile in Vizient’s safety domain, which includes measures such as hospital-acquired infections, surgical errors, and post-operative complications."

The CEO of The Leapfrog Group, Leah Binder, says the grading system allows them to pinpoint where problems are.

“We are seeing fewer deaths from the preventable errors we monitor in our grading process,” said Binder.

10Investigates found out it's possible hospitals that voluntarily participated in this survey got higher scores. But, Erica Mobley, director of operations at The Leapfrog Group, said it's no sure thing.

"...participation alone is not a guarantee of a better grade: if a hospital is not performing well on safety metrics that are evaluated through the Survey and included in the Safety Grade, their Safety Grade will not be better solely based on the fact that they participated," Mobley said.

To read Mobley's full written responses to 10Investigates' questions, click here.

Yes. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade is the nation's only rating focused entirely on patient safety-preventable errors, accidents, injuries and infections. The methodology was developed by an Expert Panel of the country's foremost experts in patient safety and has been peer- reviewed and published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

The representative for BayCare says The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are the result of a process-based survey not an outcome-based survey like IBM Watson. 

10Investigates’ Courtney Robinson asked her to explain by using the score St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa received for handwashing. Handwashing is critical to preventing the spread of infection and illness. The best hospital in the survey was scored at ‘60’ and St. Joseph’s received a ‘6.’

“The outcomes of our IBM Watson performance reflect that we have effective hand hygiene practices. The Leapfrog survey is primarily process-based. For example, Leapfrog’s survey asks, “Does your hospital use an electronic compliance monitoring system for assessing hand hygiene compliance.” In this instance, we answered no because we have other processes in place such as manual auditing system and infection prevention technology. Team members are provided with hand hygiene education as well as easy access to handwashing stations, face masks and hand sanitation dispensers. We also have daily safety meetings across the system to reinforce safety practices,” said Dena Brannen, communication manager for BayCare.

A number of hospitals around Tampa Bay did receive 'A' grades, including seven AdventHealth hospitals. 

"We see this as one of the most valuable, transparent reports on patient safety. We also believe there is added value in that we voluntarily share our information which is not the case for all studies. Patients should want to choose hospitals with the highest score possible so they know they are safe from infection, accident or injury while they are being cared for," said Ashley Jeffery of AdventHealth.

Doctors Hospital of Sarasota received its 11th consecutive ‘A’ safety rating from The Leapfrog Group and says patients should consider all information available to them. 

Doctors Hospital of Sarasota celebrates 'A' Grade
Team at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota celebrates 'A' Grade.
Doctors Hospital of Sarasota

“Doctors Hospital of Sarasota recognizes the need for patients to look at many factors when making healthcare decisions. We are fortunate to have a long history of exceptional performance from a variety of rating agencies, including 11 consecutive Leapfrog ‘A’ safety ratings,” said Cheri Trinchetto, vice president of quality and patient safety for Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.

Bottom line, you should do your research. Do not rely on just one group’s survey and ask a hospital to see their quality metrics for things like infections, handwashing and even deaths.

To search how hospitals performed, click here.

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