Negative Patient Experiences and Low Grades for California Hospitals

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With 41 percent of California hospitals receiving a grade of "C" or lower, the Golden State's patient care system finds itself in the spotlight, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Who graded the hospitals?

The Leapfrog Group, a national hospital safety data collector, issued its hospital safety scores. Evaluations included 264 general hospitals from California.

How did California hospitals rank?

Of the 264 hospitals included in the safety score, 97 scored an "A," 58 earned a "B" and 83 got a "C." There are 26 hospitals identified with a pending grade, which is indicative of a score lower than "C." The Leapfrog Group intends to hold off issuing a letter grade to these hospitals until November, giving the institutions a chance to fix the most egregious problems.

What did this grading process involve?

The Leapfrog Group explains its methodology to focus primarily on hospital safety data. The apportioned score communicates a hospital's "overall capacity to keep patients safe from infections, injuries, and medical and medication errors."

Do patient experiences support the group's documented safety concerns?

The Department of Health and Human Services operates the Hospital Compare website. A comparative analysis of the LAC/Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, Los Alamitos Medical Center and Olympia Medical Center -- these hospitals ranked with a "C," "B" and "C" on the 2012 hospital safety score -- highlights common patient complaints. Patients asked to evaluate their stays complained of dirty rooms or bathrooms, uncommunicative staff, lagging pain management and staff unresponsiveness. Patient safety measures showed the two hospitals with a "C" rating ranked "worse than the U.S. national benchmark" with respect to central line associated blood stream infections. The hospital rated with a "B" ranked better than the national average.

Do patient experiences validate excellent ratings?

Positive patient experiences are not a foolproof indicator of an excellent hospital. The Los Angeles Times notes Cedars-Sinai Medical Center received an "A," while Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center is one of the California hospitals with a grade falling below a "C." Hospital Compare data shows patients ranked staff interactions and stays at the latter institution more positively than they did at the top-rated hospital. To find differences in patient care that might justify Leapfrog's rating difference, process of care measures must be evaluated. Whereas Cedars-Sinai Medical Center scored at or near 100 percent in heart attack or chest pain care procedures, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center earned ratings ranging from 81 percent to 100 percent.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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