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Study Finds Black and Hispanic Patients Experience Higher Rates of Adverse Surgery-Related Safety Events Across all Safety Grades

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Understanding whether hospitals achieve low rates of adverse safety events by delivering inpatient care uniformly to patient populations is critical to designing and evaluating policies and programs that aim to improve overall hospital quality.  A new study from The Leapfrog Group in partnership with the Urban Institute – Racial, Ethnic, and Payer Disparities in Adverse Safety Events: Are there Differences across Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades? – sought to assess whether hospitals achieving better Leapfrog Safety Grades deliver, on average, safer care to all patients, including patients with different racial-ethnic backgrounds and coverage types.

Researchers used complete patient-level hospital discharge records from 15 states in 2019 to assess rates of adverse safety events by patient racial and ethnic background (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic Black, or Hispanic patients) by three hospital Safety Grade cohorts (i.e., A hospitals, B hospitals, and C/D/F hospitals) as measured by the Leapfrog Group Hospital Safety Grades.

They found that Leapfrog Group Hospital Safety Grades are a useful resource for patients irrespective of their racial and ethnic backgrounds. For most measures, Black patients can expect safer care in A-graded hospitals than in C/D/F-graded hospitals—this is also true for white and Hispanic patients. Second, the hospital’s Safety Grade does not ensure that any disparity in the quality of care delivered to different patient populations will be minimized. In other words, these findings suggest that the hospitals most adept at achieving safe care overall are no better at identifying and narrowing inequities in the delivery of that care.

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