Illinois’ overall ranking for hospital safety has again dropped, this time to 28th in the country, with one Chicago hospital earning an F, and more than half a dozen hospitals notching Ds, according to a new report.
About 26.5% of Illinois hospitals earned A grades for safety, according to new ratings from the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, which grades hospitals across the country twice a year. The percentage of hospitals earning A grades in Illinois has been slowly declining in recent years. As recently as spring 2021, Illinois ranked 17th in the nation, with 35% of hospitals achieving A grades.
The grades are important to hospitals as they work to attract patients and compete. Hospitals with high grades often tout them in their advertising, though experts advise patients to use ratings and grades as just one tool when choosing where to receive care.
The Leapfrog grades are based on more than 30 measures of patient safety from the federal government, a Leapfrog survey and other sources. Measures include falls and trauma, hand hygiene and death rates among surgical patients with serious, treatable conditions.
In the grades released Wednesday, one Illinois hospital, South Shore Hospital on the city’s South Side, got an F. Seven Illinois hospitals earned Ds, including Chicago’s Weiss Memorial and Roseland Community hospitals, as well as Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and Vista Medical Center East in Waukegan.
South Shore CEO Leslie Rogers said since taking over as leader of the hospital this summer, he’s been trying to focus on improving the hospital’s financial stability, its Medicare quality ratings issued by the federal government, and strengthening the hospital’s involvement in the community. The not-for-profit hospital serves a mostly Black community, and many of its patients are on Medicare or Medicaid.
“We will move and strive to be a C or better the next go around,” Rogers said.
He said that the hospital may not have done well in certain categories on Leapfrog for a number of reasons, such as because it doesn’t have a doctor in its intensive care unit eight hours a day, five days a week, though other medical staff are constantly there. He also said that the hospital exceeds national averages in some areas tracked by the federal government. For example, South Shore has a higher percentage of patients who receive appropriate care for severe sepsis and/or septic shock than state and national averages, according to Medicare, though Medicare gave the hospital one out of five stars, overall, for quality.
“A safety-oriented culture toward patients is where we’re going,” Rogers said. “We’re going to continue to work and strive toward that.”
Meanwhile, some hospitals criticize Leapfrog’s methodology.
“We firmly believe that meaningful quality and safety data should be transparent to the public,” said Advocate Aurora Health, in a statement, in response to Advocate Christ’s D grade. “However, accurately measuring this data can be challenging, and some organizations use limited methodologies that don’t always reflect the quality of care or the varied factors that contribute to patient outcomes.”
Advocate Aurora said it has a “robust plan” in place to continue to improve on safety and health outcomes.
For Vista Medical Center East, the D grade it earned in this latest report is an improvement over earlier this year, when it was the state’s only hospital to earn an F.
The hospital said in a statement that it “continuously focuses on safety, quality, and our patients’ experience” while noting that “data used to compile Vista’s current Leapfrog grade is more than three years old in some cases and does not reflect the dedication and clinical performance of Vista’s physicians, nurses, and staff.”
Weiss hospital received its D grade because of an increase in hospital-acquired infections during some of the reporting periods, said Jane Brust, a spokeswoman for Weiss parent company Pipeline Health, in a statement.
“Since then, we have improved our processes and expect future scores, specifically fall, to reflect those improvements,” she said in the statement. “Patient safety is our highest priority, and our physicians and staff are fully committed to quality in our patient care activities.”
Pipeline recently filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in the midst of an effort to sell Weiss and West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park.
Roseland hospital did not respond to a request for comment on its D grade.
Though the percentage of grade A hospitals in Illinois declined, the report did offer some bright spots, even as hospitals across the state continued to wrestle with fallout from the pandemic and staffing shortages.
Three Illinois hospitals earned As for the 22nd consecutive time in a row — a feat accomplished by just 22 hospitals across the nation. Those three Illinois hospitals are University of Chicago Medical Center, Elmhurst Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield.
U. of C. Medical Center focuses on safety partly through huddles between front-line workers and leaders each morning, said Krista Curell, an executive vice president and chief integration and transformation officer at the hospital. Those huddles are a time to discuss performance, challenges and concerns, she said.
Elmhurst Hospital achieves its high scores through a culture of safety, said hospital leaders. Each patient room in the hospital, which replaced an older facility in 2011, is identical and items are stored in the same places throughout the hospital so “no matter where you go, you know where things are,” said hospital President Pamela Dunley. Staff are all trained in certain safety methods that include being expected to report when they see something that’s not right.
“We’ve empowered all staff to be able to speak up for safety and know they are part of the solution, and no matter what role they have, whether housekeepers or nurses or doctors, all of them can see what might not be working,” Dunley said.
Also, both U. of C. Medical Center and Elmhurst have electronic sensors throughout their facilities that monitor hand washing and hand sanitizing among staff.
In this latest report, Northwestern Memorial Hospital also improved its safety grade to a B. Northwestern Memorial earned a C during the last two grading periods, surprising many who have long considered it to be one of the top hospitals in the state.
U.S. News & World Report, which ranks hospitals each year using a different methodology than Leapfrog, has ranked Northwestern Memorial as the best hospital in Illinois for 11 consecutive years — something Northwestern often advertises on its signage.
Each year, a number of organizations rate and grade hospitals, all using different methodologies and coming up with different results.