Would you rather go to a hospital that gets an A for patient safety or an F?
In the Greater Lehigh Valley, 11 hospitals earned an A, the highest grade from The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit that publishes a health care quality assessment twice a year.
But seven hospitals scored lower in patient safety, with grades ranging from B to D.
The group evaluates publicly available data from more than 2,600 acute-care hospitals in the United States on how safe they keep their patients from errors, accidents, injuries and infections.
Hospitals are assigned letter grades of A, B, C, D and F. The grades are calculated by patient safety experts, peer reviewed and made available to the public.
In Pennsylvania, 132 hospitals were graded: 50 earned an A; 27 earned a B; 47 earned a C, eight earned a D and none earned an F. Overall, Pennsylvania had the 14th-most A-rated hospitals among 49 states that were evaluated
The hospitals in the Greater Lehigh Valley that earned an A safety grade:
• Doylestown Hospital
• Easton Hospital
• Grand View Hospital
• Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest
• Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg
• Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono
• Reading Hospital
• Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Allentown Campus
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Anderson Campus
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Bethlehem Campus
The hospitals in the Greater Lehigh Valley that earned a B safety grade:
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Minersville Campus
• Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill Medical Center S. Jackson Street
The hospitals in the Greater Lehigh Valley that earned a C safety grade:
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Quakertown
• Pottstown Hospital
The hospitals in the Greater Lehigh Valley that earned a D safety grade:
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Palmerton Campus.
• St. Luke’s Hospital-Gnaden Huetten Campus.
• Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill Medical Center E. Norwegian Street.
Brian Downs, a spokesman for Lehigh Valley Health Network, said the network had already started working on improvements at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill Medical Center S. Jackson Street, which got a B, and Lehigh Valley Hospital-Schuylkill Medical Center E. Norwegian Street, which got a D.
LVHN acquired the hospitals in 2016.
“There are a couple areas we are looking at closely and we feel can be improved upon,” Downs said.
One of the areas is in computerized physician order entries, which is when physicians enter medication and other orders into a computer instead of writing them by hand.
Although the computer system is already in place at the LVH hospitals in Schuylkill, Downs said, “What we need to do is try to get everyone used to it and to use it consistently.
Downs said the network will also be hiring more physicians to staff the intensive care units at both hospitals, a category where it scored lower.
Downs said the network had already begun working on the improvements, including in infection control, and expects to raise its grades by the time The Leapfrog Group issues its spring report.
Two of St. Luke’s University Health Network’s hospitals acquired earlier this year, St. Luke’s Hospital-Palmerton Campus and St. Luke’s Hospital-Gnaden Huetten Campus, got Ds.
Donna Sabol, vice president and chief quality officer at St. Luke’s University Health Network, said, “Gnaden Huetten and Palmerton are new to our network. Currently, we are implementing our award-winning safety and quality strategies at those hospitals, and we are confident that future Leapfrog grades will reflect our improvements.”
The network started construction this year on a new $100 million hospital in Milford Township, near Quakertown, that will replace St. Luke’s Hospital-Quakertown, which got a C.
Tower Health, owner of Reading Hospital, which got an A, and Pottstown Hospital, which got a C, said "high quality and patient safety is our top priority" at its six hospitals.
"We are committed to sharing best practices and investing in continuous quality improvement to the benefit of all our hospital communities," it said in a statement.
Reading Hospital rebranded as Tower Health and acquired five hospitals, including Pottstown Hospital, in 2017.
"Since the inception of Tower Health in October 2017, teams across the organization have been working together to identify areas of opportunity to enhance clinical outcomes and safety for all of our communities," it said.
Carl J. Seitz Jr., president of the Lehigh Valley Business Coalition on Healthcare, said, “Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the country and the safety grades put a focus on that issue and give our members some objective information to look at when they are looking at regional health care providers.”
The LVBCH is a nonprofit group based in Bethlehem that buys health insurance plans for employers in several states, including Pennsylvania. The group is a regional representative for The Leapfrog Group and coordinates reporting safety grade information from hospitals in Pennsylvania, except for Philadelphia.
Seitz said the report provides useful comparison data and can affect employers’ decisions when choosing health care coverage
“Let’s say a hospital gets an A grade and another gets a D grade, [the employer] can put something in the plan where there could be a lower copay at the A hospital versus the D hospital,” he said.
“It gives an incentive to the employee to use the better-performing hospital,” Seitz said.
The report and its letter grades are designed to be easily understood by consumers, he said.
“The Hospital Safety Grades give the American public information they need and deserve about the safety of their hospitals,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, said in a statement.
Binder commended LVBCH for making patient safety “a priority for the Lehigh Valley and across Pennsylvania.”
The Leapfrog hospital safety grade report is available at www.hospitalsafetygrade.org.