New patient safety report gives 14 San Diego-area hospitals top marks

SAN DIEGO — More than a dozen hospitals in San Diego County earned top marks in a new study on patient safety that looked to analyze how health care centers have improved post-pandemic.

On Monday, patient safety advocacy non-profit the Leapfrog Group released their fall 2023 Hospital Safety Grades, a bi-annual report that assigns a letter grade to thousands of hospitals across the country for how well they prevent medical errors, accidents and infections.

The grades in the fall report are the first to reflect how hospitals are performing post-pandemic, according to the non-profit.

Of the over 280 hospitals measured in California, 87 earned “A” grades in the report — 14 of which were San Diego-area hospitals. Those that received the highest grade represented the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Encinitas, Escondido, La Jolla, National City, Poway and La Mesa:

  1. Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center
  2. Kaiser Permanente Zion Medical Center
  3. Palomar Medical Center Escondido
  4. Palomar Medical Center Poway
  5. Paradise Valley Hospital
  6. Scripps Green Hospital
  7. Scripps Memorial Hospital of Encinitas
  8. Scripps Memorial Hospital of La Jolla
  9. Scripps Mercy Hospital of Chula Vista
  10. Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center
  11. Sharp Grossmont Hospital
  12. Sharp Memorial Hospital
  13. UC San Diego Health Hillcrest
  14. UC San Diego Health La Jolla

Two of these hospitals — Palomar Medical Center Escondido and Palomar Medical Center Poway — had improved their grades from “B” and “C” in recent months.

After a considerable uptick during the pandemic, the report found that overall patient safety has stabilized in the U.S.

Over 85% of hospitals nationwide have reported improved performance on at least one of three dangerous infections that can be passed to those in a hospital, according to the Leapfrog Group.

These include Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) and catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI) — all three of which reached a five-year high during the pandemic.

The latest data from the Leapfrog Group indicates that 19% of hospitals have improved at preventing all three of the infections while 66% saw changes in at least one.

About 16% of the 3,000 health care centers analyzed saw continued worsening or made no improvement from the last grade report, according to the study.

This translated to about 39% of hospitals across the country earning a “C” grade, 7% earning a “D” and less than 1% earning an “F.”

Only four hospitals in San Diego County received grades below “A” on the report. Sharp Coronado Hospital and Scrips Mercy received a “B,” while Alvarado Hospital and Tri-City Medical Center got “C” grades.

Alvarado Hospital fell from the “B” grade that was assigned to the healthcare center in the non-profit’s report earlier this year. Tri-City Medical has held the “C” grade since fall 2021.

While this decline is important, the study said that the most significant change found in the study was in the patient experience reports, which is measured by responses to a national survey following a hospital visit. According to Leapfrog, patients are asked to rate their care providers’ communication, responsiveness and discharge information.

In every state, patient experience scores worsened for the second year in a row, the study found. The largest changes were in the categories of “communication about medicines” and “responsiveness of hospital staff.”

“Now that we have pre- and post-pandemic data for patient safety measures, we are encouraged by the improvement in infections and applaud hospitals for reversing the disturbing infection spike we saw during the pandemic,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a release. “However, there’s still more work to be done. It’s deeply concerning that patient reports about their health care experience continues to decline.”

According to Binder, this deterioration is likely the cause of persistent staffing shortages.

“Many hospitals are innovating to help make patient experience better, which is critical because these results are disheartening and unsustainable,” she added.  

According to the Leapfrog Group, their ratings program is the only one based exclusively on how a hospital prevents medical errors or issues that could harm their patients.

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