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RED HOT Contributors


Episode 49 – Carrying a BIG STICK for Hospital Safety


When I mention an organization that walks tall and carries a big stick – you’d best be thinking of The LeapFrog Group. It has become one of the more powerful patient safety organizations in grading hospitals, through its mission of providing public transparency. Ultimately, it seeks to improve safety, quality, and affordability of U.S. health care.

Estimates today finger medical errors as causing upwards of 400,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. Additionally, employers and individual coverage purchasers are the unwitting recipients of long-term purposeful cost hyperinflation from drug companies, healthcare providers, and health payers.

Founded in 2000, the LeapFrog Group came about from large employers and care coverage purchasers who recognized the poor returns on their healthcare spend. Never has that need been more true than today – as hyperinflated costs can no longer be justified will business and individual consumers supporting the system and its pricing.

In 2017, nearly 1,800 hospitals have already completed LeapFrog’s quality, safety, and resource survey. It is increasingly being considered a standard for evaluating hospital performance – specific to quality, safe, and resource use. Leapfrog already gives its own safety ratings on all U.S. hospitals; and this data is being increasingly used by individual and business healthcare consumers – especially as we see free-market forces entering into the system.

Just Google ‘LeapFrog Hospital’ and you will rarely see a day where some hospital doesn’t put out some press release about its grade with LeapFrog. It’s become a badge of honor – especially when the ratings are good. But when the ratings are bad…LeapFrog makes it fully accessible to the public.

Full transparency…leading to necessary accountability. And this is just the start, as the organization is planning to move its ratings across other facets of care.

Recently, Dr. Steve Ambrose – the Founder & Host of the RED HOT HEALTHCAREPodcast, had an opportunity to engage in a riveting back-and-forth audio interview with Leah Binder, the outspoken CEO and President of The LeapFrog Group.

She was named on Becker’s list of the 50 most powerful people in healthcare, and consistently cited by Modern Healthcare among the 100 most influential people and top 25 women in healthcare.

In the complete audio listen, Dr. Steve Ambrose and Leah Binder dive deep into topics including:

  • Her history of working on New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s team
  • How the LeapFrog Group grew its influence with thousands of hospitals
  • The REAL TRUTH on who pays the most healthcare costs
  • What facets make up LeapFrog’s grades & reported data
  • The importance of PUBLIC transparency and accountability for all hospitals
  • Extending transparency to payers and pharma companies (Dr. Steve thoughts)

Here’s a small snippet of transcription from the show interview:

DR. STEVE: “So where did the influence grow from…with this non-profit?

I mean, you don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars of investment, or thousands of employees. So how has LeapFrog steered itself into carrying so much influence throughout the large hospital industry?”

LEAH BINDER: “Two things – and neither of them can be bought with money. And this is why we’re not large…but we ARE influential.

One is the engagement of purchasers. We’ve had hundreds of purchasers very actively in LeapFrog. Asking hospitals to report to LeapFrog, and using the data as a high priority in their purchasing.

And typically the way that we engage purchasers is through Regional Business Groups on Health – and there’s about 40 of them throughout the country. For example, there’s the Northeast Business Group on Health in New York City…and they represent LeapFrog IN THAT region.

This is about a movement of purchasers who finally understood, and become empowered that they had a right to ask FOR MORE. And they are asking for more, through the transparency and data we’re gathering through LeapFrog.

The second way is a program that we started in 2012 called the Hospital Safety Grade. In 2010, which was 10 years after the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report first came out on medically-caused errors and death, we had to take a true look at our progress.

How had things gone for a decade? Was there real progress being made on patients safety.

And the reports came back stating NO. And actually, that the problem of safety in hospitals was actually far worse than we thought.

So our Board at Leapfrog, our members and all of these purchasers, who were so involved, really had to take a deep look at the problem and ask ourselves if we were truly on the right track. Was this model of a more functional and transparent market in healthcare really the best model?

And we determined that this model WAS RIGHT. Business leaders know instinctively that high level of transparency and comparison in the open marketplace can work. It will reduce costs over time…and improve quality.

The big problem WAS…that the survey and the report data was voluntary. And that was a problem, because a hospital that was not doing well – could just NOT volunteer to give us the information.

And BOOM – they weren’t included in this competitive market.”

DR. STEVE: “Right.”

LEAH BINDER: “And so, in 2012 we launched the Hospital Safety Grade – which is NOT voluntary. It’s a grade that we give every general hospital in the United States, irregardless of whether they report to us.

It’s grades are A, B, C, D, or F. It’s data-driven, and it’s science driven. It’s based on information from CMS – which we helped to advocate, to get this publicly reported to begin with. It is a safety-only grade; and that has had a very significant impact, and in hospitals setting priorities about their future.

A lot of hospitals want that A in safety – and they are going to make it a priority to earn that…and we’re really proud of this.”


 I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Steve Ambrose on a podcast that covered a range of topics in healthcare information technology. The podcast logistics – communications, interview questions, scheduling and production – were every well managed.
A great experience that I would do again in an instance.

Dr. John Glaser
SVP, Population Health at CERNER

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