- Patient experience scores and safety indicators at hospitals have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, showing how the crisis has affected healthcare delivery "at every level and every setting," according to a report out Tuesday from The Leapfrog Group, which grades hospitals on quality and safety.
- One major metric that has shifted during COVID-19 is responsiveness of hospital staff, which saw a dip to 63% at the midpoint of the pandemic from July 2020 to March 2021, compared to 67% before the pandemic began, according to Leapfrog.
- The group's biannual safety grades varied widely across different hospitals in the spring. Across all states, 33% of hospitals earned an A in the spring, 24% earned a B, 36% earned a C, 7% earned a D and fewer than 1% received an F.
The latest hospital safety scores highlight the strains the healthcare system still faces two years into the pandemic and how the quality of patient care has declined in some facilities as a result, according to the release from The Leapfrog Group.
The nonprofit assigns letter grades to nearly 3,000 hospitals across the country, using more than 30 measures to determine how well hospitals protect patients from preventable errors, accidents, injuries and infections.
North Carolina, Virginia, Utah, Colorado and Michigan had the highest percentage of hospitals receiving an A, while Wyoming, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and North Dakota had no hospitals that received an A, according to the report.
Spring grades showed a significant decline in several measures.
While patients reported issues with hospital staff responsiveness, their experiences with care transitions out of a hospital setting also worsened considerably during the pandemic, according to The Leapfrog Group.
The report comes as hospitals grapple with ongoing staffing shortages as nurses and other healthcare staff experience widespread burnout. Serious safety lapses can happen when patients aren’t able to receive care quickly, the report said.
Patient experience measures can have direct ties to safety outcomes, as more communication with providers can lead to lower rates of hospital-acquired infections such as sepsis or blood clots, surgical complications and respiratory failure, according to the group.
Another report out in March from healthcare safety organization the Emergency Care Research Institute found staffing shortages and healthcare workers’ mental health are the top two patient safety concerns for 2022.
“The health care workforce has faced unprecedented levels of pressure during the pandemic, and as a result, patients' experience with their care appears to have suffered,” Leapfrog Group CEO Leah Binder said in the release.
“We commend the workforce for their heroic efforts these past few years and now strongly urge hospital leadership to recommit to improved care — from communication to responsiveness — and get back on track with patient safety outcomes,” she said.
Overall, the distribution of scores remained mostly unchanged from fall to spring.
In the fall, 32% of hospitals received A grades, 26% of hospitals received B grades, 35% scored C grades, 7% received D grades, and fewer than 1% received an F.