How safe is your neighborhood hospital? Here’s how to check its safety grades

Here's how you can find out how safe your area hospital is.
Here's how you can find out how safe your area hospital is.

HOUSTON – When your mom, husband, or child needs to go to the hospital, how do you choose where they should go?

Even though Houston is home to the world-renowned Texas Medical Center, not all those hospitals are created equal. Looking at a hospital’s safety grade is a good place to start.

The Leapfrog Group recently released its latest report that grades hospital safety, and for the first time, these results cover performance during the pandemic.

How Safe Are Texas Hospitals?

United Memorial Medical Center: Grade D

Dr. Joseph Varon, the chief of critical care and the COVID-19 unit at United Memorial Medical Center, said he has experienced “384 continuous days of working in the COVID unit without a single day off.”

Varon and UMMC have been recognized across the globe as the little hospital that could, including on Thanksgiving when he cradled a patient with COVID in his arms. So what grade did UMMC get?

“This survey gave you a D,” said KPRC 2 Investigator Bill Spencer.

“You can give me any letter that you want, it really doesn’t matter,” said Varon. “We care for those that nobody else wants to care for and more importantly, we have the best survival rates for COVID in the entire country,” Varon said.

Dr Varon discusses the hospital safety grade.
Dr Varon discusses the hospital safety grade.

KPRC 2 Investigates asked The Leapfrog Group about UMMC’s score.

“It’s disappointing to see a hospital where there’s so much heroism, that we depend on them so much during the pandemic, to see them not dwell on patient safety,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.

27 Categories for Safety

Leapfrog is a non-profit panel of national experts from top medical schools across the country and received guidance from Johns Hopkins.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses up to 27 national performance measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, and information from other supplemental data sources. Taken together, those performance measures produce a single letter grade representing a hospital’s overall performance in keeping patients safe from preventable harm and medical errors.

How the Grade is Determined

“The Expert Panel selected 27 measures of patient safety, analyzed the data, and determined the weight of each measure based on evidence, opportunity for improvement and impact. In some cases where a hospital’s information is not available for a certain measure, Leapfrog uses a supplemental data source. In cases where a hospital’s information is not available from any data source, Leapfrog has outlined a methodology for dealing with the missing data,” Leapfrog noted.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade places each measure into one of two domains: (1) Process/Structural Measures or (2) Outcome Measures, each accounting for 50% of the overall score.”

Hospital Visitor Policies

HCA Houston Visitor Policy - Revised 5/14/2021

Memorial Hermann Visitor Policy Effective 5/24/2021

CHI St. Luke’s Health Visitor Policy - Updated 3/31/21

Houston Methodist Visitor Policy - Effective 5/3/21

How To Prepare For Your Hospital Visit

Hospitals Respond to the Results

St. Luke’s Press Release

Houston Methodist

“All seven Houston Methodist locations scored an “A” safety rating in the Spring 2021 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. Safety is crucial to our mission to provide unparalleled safety, quality, service and innovation to patients, and Leapfrog’s recognition reaffirms our commitment to leading medicine in our community.”

Harris Health System

“Harris Health System and its hospitals—Ben Taub and Lyndon B. Johnson—are not subscribers to the Leapfrog survey used in this report. As such, we cannot determine the validity of data gathered to compile its results.”


About the Authors:

Emmy-winning investigative reporter, insanely competitive tennis player, skier, weightlifter, crazy rock & roll drummer (John Bonham is my hero). Husband to Veronica and loving cat father to Bella and Meemo.