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New hospital safety grades are in. Here’s how Triangle hospitals rank.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade explained

The Leapfrog Group, a Washington-based nonprofit, put together this explainer on how they grade hospitals and what you can do. Two Triangle hospitals saw their grades drop from A to C when the latest ratings came out on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.
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The Leapfrog Group, a Washington-based nonprofit, put together this explainer on how they grade hospitals and what you can do. Two Triangle hospitals saw their grades drop from A to C when the latest ratings came out on Tuesday, April 24, 2018.

Hospitals in the Triangle continue to rank among the nation’s best for patient safety, according to the newest survey issued by the Washington-based nonprofit Leapfrog Group.

The Leapfrog Safety Grade scored 79 hospitals in the state as well as more than 2,600 acute care hospitals across the United States in its bi-annual survey of health providers. The scores are based on 28 performance measures for errors, accidents, injuries and infections and is completed twice each year — once in the spring and again in the fall.

Overall, 34% of North Carolina hospitals received an A, which ranked 19th nationwide. That was a drop for the state, which in the fall 2018 survey had 43% of its hospitals receive an A — good for sixth best nationwide.

In the most recent survey, a little more than 44% of the state’s hospitals scored a B and roughly 20% scored a C.

No hospital received an F. But Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Wilkes Medical Center in North Wilkesboro received a D.

Out of all the hospitals graded in the country, 32% made As, 26% received Bs, 36% earned Cs, 6% a D and less than 1% got Fs, according to Leapfrog.

In the Triangle, however, no hospital received worse than a B score and the majority scored an A.

The hospitals earning As are:

University of North Carolina Hospitals in Chapel Hill

Duke University Hospital in Durham

Duke Regional Hospital in Durham

UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh

Duke Raleigh Hospital

Johnston Health in Clayton

The hospitals earning Bs are:

WakeMed Cary Hospital

WakeMed Raleigh

WakeMed Raleigh’s grade was the only one to get a letter downgrade from the fall, when it scored an A. Despite the downgrade, a spokeswoman for WakeMed said the hospital is still posting consistently strong scores.

“As in past years, both (of our) hospitals continued to excel in the metrics related to processes,” spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said in an email. “These consistently strong scores indicate that we have a strong culture of safety and procedures that engage staff and leaders.

“We remain focused on improving our outcomes, working together as a team and keeping our patients and their families at the center of everything we do,” she added.

Leapfrog letter grades for hospitals can vary from one rating period to the next, and the scores may not reflect a hospital’s current performance level, as the information covers incidents that sometimes occurred multiple years ago, The News & Observer previously reported.

In a statement, UNC Health said UNC Rex in Raleigh is one of only 41 hospitals across the country to receive only As since Leapfrog began its grades in 2012.

“As the state’s health-care system, we are grateful for the Leapfrog Group’s recognition of our efforts,” Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health Care, said in a statement. “I’d like to thank our physicians and co-workers for their work in keeping our patients safe and providing the highest quality care.”

The scores are relative to the performance of other hospitals, so occasionally one hospital’s score could slip even if its performance is the same, because a hospital somewhere else improved.

The safety score comes from data compiled by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Agency for Healthcare Research Quality, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Hospital Association, Health Information Technology Supplement and Leapfrog’s own survey.

Leapfrog says that as many as 440,000 people die every year from hospital errors, injuries, accidents and infections, and a Medicare patient has a 25% chance of being harmed, injured or dying in a hospital.

Leapfrog says its safety score should never be the sole reason for selecting a hospital, and the group advises people to take the score into consideration when choosing a hospital for planned, elective procedures. The organization says patients should never reject emergency treatment based on a Leapfrog safety score.

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Zachery Eanes is the Innovate Raleigh reporter for The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun. He covers technology, startups and main street businesses, biotechnology, and education issues related to those areas.
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