Although MedStar Georgetown University Hospital received a rating of C in hospital safety, it is still safer than all but one of the six other Washington, D.C. hospitals, according to a report released Oct. 31 by nonprofit organization The Leapfrog Group.

According to The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, as many as 440,000 people die annually from hospital errors, including injuries, accidents and infections. This amounts to an average of more than 1,200 people dying daily due to preventable hospital error.

The hospital safety ratings, which evaluated hospitals based on their ability to avoid malpractice, accidents and patient injuries, placed MedStar Georgetown in the 43rd percentile of the 2,633 hospitals evaluated nationwide. More than 1,500 hospitals, or about 57 percent of the total, scored an A or B.

While MedStar Georgetown performed worse than most hospitals nationwide, it was the only D.C. hospital evaluated by the Leapfrog Group to receive a C. Only Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest D.C. scored higher with an overall B rating.

Four of the five D.C. hospitals that scored lower than MedStar Georgetown received a D rating. These include Howard University Hospital, MedStar Washington Hospital Center, George Washington University Hospital and Providence Hospital of Washington. Not for Profit Hospital, the only hospital evaluated in D.C.’s Southeast quadrant, scored an F, the lowest possible rating.

MedStar Georgetown’s Communications Specialist Yvette Rattray disputed the findings of the rankings, claiming they did not accurately reflect the quality of care provided at the hospital.

“Rating systems can at times oversimplify a complex healthcare landscape, create more confusion than clarity for patients and providers and could mislead patients away from the best hospitals that set the standard of care for their conditions,” Rattray wrote in an email to The Hoya. “In some cases, the quality data used can vary, so when reviewing ratings, consumers should ensure reporting is based on current data that reflects the latest achievements on quality.”

Only 177 hospitals, or less than 7 percent of the total number evaluated, scored below MedStar Georgetown, while 954 hospitals including MedStar Georgetown received the most common letter score of a C.

Vanessa Pabon (NHS ’18), a nursing major who has worked over 200 clinical hours at MedStar Georgetown, said the C rating does not come as a surprise, recounting examples of apparent noncompliance to protocols by certain staff.

“Personally, I have seen a lot of things that are questionable about the practices,” Pabon said. “For example, when there’s a patient at risk of falling, you should always have the door open, and on multiple occasions I’ve seen them close the doors.”

Conner McMains (GRD ’19), president of the Georgetown University School of Medicine Patient Safety Interest Group, which raises awareness of patient safety issues, defended MedStar Georgetown.

According to McMains, who interned at the MedStar Institute for Quality and Safety, there is a strong commitment to patients’ welfare.

“I am proud that MedStar Georgetown University Hospital ranks near the top in patient safety among D.C. hospitals,” McMains said. “I know very well that MedStar holds patient safety as a top priority.”
Leapfrog evaluated hospitals based on process and structural measures, which examined the hospital environment and how often hospitals gave patients recommended treatment, as well as outcome measures, which represent what happened to a patient while receiving care.

The ratings also took into account national performance measures from organizations including the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, which encouraged hospitals to voluntarily report additional safety data but did not require completion to receive a safety grade.

Of the 49 states plus D.C. ranked by Leapfrog, D.C. is one of only four with no A-rated hospitals. The other three states are Alaska, Delaware and North Dakota. Maryland was the only state not ranked by Leapfrog, as it does not require hospitals to publically report patient safety data, from which Leapfrog bases its rankings.

McMains acknowledged while there is room for improvement in MedStar Georgetown’s rating, he believes these improvements will come as the new rankings put pressure on the hospital to improve.

“In my experience, I have been continually impressed and reassured by the advancements MedStar has made in providing safe, high-quality health care to all patients,” McMains said. “While a C rating from the Leapfrog Group certainly indicates some room for growth, we are likely to see this rating improve in subsequent evaluations.”

Leapfrog President and CEO Leah Binder said in a press release that overall patient safety involves a number of different factors and improvements that take time to implement.

“Many safety measures are concrete, like accurately calibrating blood glucometers or clearly marking medication labels. On the other hand, some measures can be fairly amorphous, considering things like culture, communication and leadership,” McMains said. “These intangible influences are arguably some of the most important drivers of safety, but they also take the most time and effort to improve.”

Pabon has also worked clinic hours in Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, which scored an A rating from Leapfrog. She said her experiences in each hospital have been noticeably different.

“It’s like a night-and-day difference between Virginia Hospital Center and MedStar Georgetown,” Pabon said. “It’s just a completely different environment.”

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