- Hospitals have reduced healthcare-acquired infections after seeing a significant spike during COVID-19, but facilities still have work to do to improve patient experience, according to the latest safety grades from The Leapfrog Group.
- In a new report, the nonprofit assigned a letter grade to nearly 3,000 hospitals on how well they prevent errors, accidents and infections, and found more than 85% improved their performance on at least one of three dangerous healthcare-acquired infections as of this fall.
- However, patient experience scores declined in 2023 nationally for the second year in a row, which could be related to ongoing provider staffing shortages, said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.
Overall, the latest report — the first to show hospital performance post-pandemic, according to Leapfrog — found 30% of hospitals attained an A grade, 24% scored a B, 39% earned a C, 7% received a D and fewer than 1% received an F.
Those grades include significant improvement in three healthcare-acquired infections: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI). All three diseases reached a five-year high during the pandemic, Leapfrog said.
In fall 2022, Leapfrog found hospitals experienced a 35% increase from pre-pandemic levels in the average standard infection ratios of CLABSI and MRSA, while CAUTI increased 20%.
This year, 19% of hospitals improved in all three infection measures compared to 2022, while 66% improved on at least one. Sixteen percent of facilities continued to get worse or didn’t improve.
Healthcare-acquired infections improve after pandemic spike
However, patient experience — which asks patients to rate nurse and doctor communication, staff responsiveness, communication about medicine and discharge information — continued to challenge hospitals. All states experienced a significant decline in experience from fall 2021 to fall 2023, according to the report.
“In talking with hospital leaders, we believe staffing shortages are one key reason for the continued decline,” Binder said in a statement calling the results “disheartening and unsustainable.”
More than 145,000 providers left the industry from 2021 through 2022, burned out after working long hours on the front lines of the pandemic, according to a recent report from analytics and data company Definitive Healthcare.
Those shortages may have decreased care quality and increased medical errors, the analysis said.
Labor challenges also strained hospitals’ bottom lines, pushing operators to rely on pricey temporary staff. Though nonprofit hospitals have improved financially this year, they’ll likely continue to face weak margins through 2024 due to labor shortages, inflation, shifting patient volumes and the end of pandemic relief funds, according to Kaufman Hall.