Why Leapfrog stands behind Harlem Hospital

Despite the opinions expressed in column, “Here’s why you can’t believe ‘top hospitals’ lists,” Harlem Hospital richly deserved the 2015 Top Hospital distinction it earned from our nonprofit, The Leapfrog Group.

Our Top Hospitals committee sets the bar high, selecting only hospitals that perform at or above the level we would want for ourselves and our families. We used data from the annual Leapfrog Hospital Survey, calculating which hospitals across the country performed best on our rigorous standards for quality, including mortality rates, infections, outcomes and management practices that put patients first. Harlem Hospital excelled among its peers, even among hospitals with far more resources and bigger brand names.

Harlem Hospital is a public hospital; certainly not one of the elite academic medical centers New York City is known for worldwide. Given this, the column writer speculated that there must be something wrong with Leapfrog’s data and offered several theories.

Theory #1: Hospitals “game” Leapfrog by reporting fictional data that we publish as is. Quite the contrary. Any Leapfrog-reporting hospital will tell you how tough Leapfrog is about verifying and documenting Survey submissions. Two-thirds of Surveys are sent back for further documentation and/or correction. We require CEO attestation for every section of the submitted Survey and randomly selected hospitals are assigned on-site verification.

Most importantly, it’s virtually impossible to game the table when your cards must face outward. Leapfrog is 100% transparent, meaning the data and methodology are made public by hospital.

Theory #2: Harlem Hospital can’t be excellent because this award “only” compares them to 1750 other hospitals that voluntarily report to Leapfrog. The majority of the brand-name hospitals and systems nationwide report to Leapfrog, which is why our Survey accounts for the vast majority of the inpatient beds in the country. That’s an impressive peer group for Harlem Hospital to be compared to.

Unfortunately, few of those hospitals are in Harlem Hospital’s own city because many New York City hospitals decline to report. Yet, Leapfrog reporting  — which is free to hospitals and free to the public — is one of the very few mechanisms hospitals can use to reveal their performance to the public through an independent entity. Many New York City hospitals would be wise to consider how they compare to their peers nationally. New Yorkers deserve higher levels of transparency than we see from too many hospitals in their city.

Theory #3: Leapfrog is wrong about Harlem Hospital because other ratings say so. Consumer Reports gave the hospital a poor rating in 2012, the column indicated, and CMS dinged its safety record. Both of those respectable ratings looked at different data and different time periods than Leapfrog does. Indeed, Leapfrog gave the hospital a poor rating in 2012. But to its enormous credit, Harlem Hospital transformed itself since and today, its performance is outstanding. That deserves praise.

The column expressed surprise in general that different ratings differ. Yet, we expect and appreciate a variety of perspectives in other industries, from new car guides to film reviews. The unique complexity of health care requires more, not fewer, perspectives to fairly debate performance in the many dimensions of the vast health care enterprise.

In Harlem Hospital, Leapfrog sees a shining star. We are proud to call it a 2015 top hospital.

Leah Binder is president and CEO, The Leapfrog Group.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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