Leapfrog's 'License Fees' for Promoting Hospital Scores Rankle

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , June 14, 2012

Binder reiterated that a nine-member panel of national hospital safety experts decided on the 26 measure sets based on "strength of evidence and impact to the patient." They didn't even pick all Leapfrog measures, just those that "met their standards," she says. "I will be interested to see AHA release a new statement and give us a new round of publicity for the score!"

Binder forwarded Leapfrog's licensing fee materials, which say the cost is $5,000 for hospitals with 300 or fewer beds and $12,500 for hospitals with 301 or more beds through November, 2012, when a new annual fee will apply.

A hospital doesn't need a license to announce its grade to staff, the board, and others and grades may be used in press releases and on web sites. But if hospitals want to use their scores in a paid media ad, marketing materials or signs, they have to pay.

The license does not entitle hospitals to publish other hospitals' scores, and may only be used for the hospital that received the grade. They "must not state or imply that the Hospital Safety Score measures or describes any other quality, e.g., patient satisfaction, quality of care provided, overall performance, etc."

I'm not a statistician, so I guess I'll have to wait for the AHA or another hospital group to explain why Leapfrog's methodology favors Leapfrog participating hospitals or why Leapfrog is wrong to sell hospitals the rights to use this particular score for promotion. It occurs to me that maybe the hospitals' protests are just part of the normal five-stage grieving process, starting with denial. 

When HealthGrades launched hospital scores a decade or so ago, "Initially there was—let's call it angst—around information that's being made publicly available," says Pete Sheehan, HealthGrades' director of hospital products and internal advocacy.

However, he says, "I think we've also seen there is a lot of power in making this information public and in moving quality in a path that benefits patients... It actually brings down the cost of care if you do quality correctly."

U.S. News & World Report could not be reached for comment.

While I wait for some resolution to the Leapfrog dustup, I'll be busy here with my e-mail, cleaning out the many dozens of press releases from hospitals across the country that want to boast to the world that they got a Leapfrog A because they're safer.




Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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3 comments on "Leapfrog's 'License Fees' for Promoting Hospital Scores Rankle"

Michael Millenson (6/15/2012 at 1:58 PM)
This story lets the hospitals try to conflate two different, unrelated items. First, is reporting data to Leapfrog, which is voluntary, a factor in being rated safe or not? Hospitals complain, but present no evidence, and Leapfrog says no. Second, is it OK for Leapfrog to charge for commercial use of its data? Yes. But the article acts as if Leapfrog makes money through the hospitals' voluntary reporting. It does not.

Anthony Cirillo (6/15/2012 at 12:38 PM)
I have to agree with the other comment. How is this any different than paying for Health Grades and the rest of the lot? Just because the data suggests under-performance does not give the right to attack a process that ther quality graders are using. They are in BUSINESS! That is how they make money. As a former chief marketing officer in hospitals and now as a consultant, I advise my clients against "buying" ratings, for good or for bad.

Joe Ketcherside MD (6/15/2012 at 9:51 AM)
I have been in healthcare for over 30 years, and this is the same song and dance over again. Physicians and hospitals who flunk a test spend more time attacking the test than they do their own crappy performance. Every measure of our health system that has ever been published shows that errors are rampant, routine care is not provided appropriately and costs are bankrupting us. "My patients are sicker." "The measures aren't risk-stratified" "Somebody else got a preferential score" and all the other standard objections are just plain worn out. If there's a better measure out there, let's see it. And I got news for you, if 80% of the systems test "above average", then that test is worthless. No measure is perfect, but if we all use the same test we know where we stand and can do something about it. Hospitals and physicians have done their level best to avoid any and all objective measurement of the safety and quality of care they deliver and oppose any public reporting. That has to stop. It's way past time for those hospitals with the Cs, Ds and Fs to put on their big boy undies, quit whining, and start acting like the professional they claim to be. Programs like Leapfrog will make it possible for consumers to pick the best systems, and with any luck the ones who spend their time attacking the test instead of their own failures will just go out of business.




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