New York hospitals face patient safety questions

New York state is known for its world-class hospitals. But a survey released this week finds many receive low grades when it comes to patient safety, according to a survey released this week by the health care group Leapfrog. 

The data graded hospitals based on feedback from patients and their experiences, assigning them a letter grade. Many hospitals received Cs and Ds. That’s not surprising to health care policy expert Bill Hammond of the Empire Center. 

“We have a long-standing record of being at the bottom of these report cards,” he said. 

The survey found 19 hospitals statewide received the highest A safety grade, while 34 hospitals received the second-lowest D grade.

“I think there’s a lot of complacency about our health care system,” Hammond said. “You often hear our officials say we have the best health care system in the world. But when people look at it systematically and carefully, that’s not what they find.”

Hospitals are receiving low marks when they fail to do the small things that can make a big difference for patients, like preventing infections. 

“They excel in the high end and the high-tech,” Hammond said. “These grades are based on low-tech stuff.”

But health care industry officials like Bea Grause of the Healthcare Association of New York say the data from Leapfrog does not tell the full story. 

“It’s a data point,” she said. “Data helps, and it’s the beginning of the conversation. It’s not the end of the conversation.”

Ratings like these do not necessarily track all outcomes, including the positive ones for patients.

“The bias and this is true for restaurant reviews as well, you tend to make the effort to complain more than you would to make the effort to say my care was wonderful,” Grause said. 

Grause added hospitals are working under oversight from both the federal and state government to track patient safety. 

“We’re constantly reviewing those data to make sure hospitals are continuing to do everything they can to keep people safe,” she said. 

But Hammond of the Empire Center believes state officials in New York should take a much closer look at why there are patient safety issues. 

“And they should be speaking about it,” he said. “They should be raising concern about it. They should be going to the hospitals and asking them way so many are getting Ds and not As and Bs. And they should be searching their own policy for how to make things better.”