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Grading St. Louis Hospitals for Patient Safety

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More St. Louis-area hospitals received a “C” than an “A” in the most recent nationwide grading of medical centers for patient safety and protecting them from dangerous medical errors.

The Leapfrog Group released its spring 2021 Hospital Safety Grades in April.  The organization is a 20-year-old not-for-profit focused on improving the nation’s healthcare quality. Part of its efforts is to issue hospital patient safety report cards every fall and spring.

St. Louis Hospitals and Medical Errors

The grades, which cover some 2,700 U.S. hospitals, are given in traditional letter fashion: “A” being the highest and “F” a failing grade. Here is how the St. Louis metropolitan area hospitals scored:

·         8 received an “A”

·         6 received a “B”

·         9 received a “C”

·         1 received a “D”

·         1 received an “F”

Hospital safety grading is based on the serious medical errors each center makes.  Leapfrog evaluates each preventable medical error by:

·         The number of patients who are harmed by a medical error

·         The severity of the patient harm caused by the medical error

Examples of preventable medical mistakes that comprise the hospital grades are:

·         Hospital-acquired infections

·         Surgical errors

·         Medication mistakes

Hospital-acquired infections – infections suffered during hospital medical treatment – often are life-threatening, especially staph infections that are resistant to anti-biotics. One cited in the hospital safety grades is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Causes of Serious Hospital-Acquired Infections

Other serious hospital-acquired infections reflected in hospital grading are:

·         Clostridium difficile infection (C. diff)

·         Blood infection

·         Surgical site infection

·         Urinary tract infection

Leapfrog reports that all these infections are caused by dirty medical equipment, dirty linen, or poor personal hygiene by the medical staff.  Those hospitals who don’t take proper cleaning precautions scored lower.

Preventable Surgical Errors

Surgical-related mistakes made before, during or after a procedure can seriously harm patients.  The grades reflect how well hospitals from several preventable surgical mistakes:

·         Surgical objects or instruments left in patient’s body

·         Dangerous blood clot

·         Patient dies from treatable complications following surgery

Better scoring hospitals, according to Leapfrog, minimize serious surgical errors by:

·         Having strict protocols for counting surgical equipment after procedure

·         Closely monitor patients most at risk for blood clots following surgery

·         Good communication and ready to take quick action by surgical team when post-op complications arise

Pre-surgery and post-op drug administration mistakes, and poor communication between doctors and patients about prescribed medications, are two additional areas of concern in the hospital grades.

Giving the patient the wrong medication or the right medication in the wrong dosage can cause serious complications.  Leapfrog says hospitals that best avoid these medical errors use bar codes on medications and patient wristbands.  If scanning both before administering medication reveals a mismatch, then a serious drug mistake is avoided.

Hospitals that emphasized careful communication at patient discharge scored well for medication errors. Such communication covers:

·         Purpose of the medication

·         Possible side effects of the medication

·         Proper way to take the medication

Hospitals, doctors and nurse must make patient safety the top priority.  If you had a family member die unexpectedly or suffered even more harm during hospital treatment, turn to a medical malpractice lawyer to help determine if a preventable error was the cause.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray Ritter Graham, posted in Blog May 18, 2021