Maine has the safest hospitals in all 50 United States, according to the Hospital Safety Score rankings recently released by the Leapfrog Group, a national hospital watchdog organization.

The report shows that 80% of Maine hospitals scored an “A” for safety, which was enough for the state to beat out Massachusetts, the incumbent champion from the November 2012 survey. 

Scores are presented as letter grades from “A” to “F,” and are based on 26 different measures of patient safety, ranging from pressure ulcers and falls to treatment protocols.

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One aspect of Maine’s hospitals that resulted in high patient safety marks is yearly reporting of serious preventable medical errors, such as wrong-site surgery and medication errors.  In 2012, Maine reported 146 of these types of errors, down from 163 in 2011.  Of the 146 errors, 14 involved surgical objects being left in patients after surgery, and two were wrong-site surgeries. 

The other states scoring in the top five for patient safety after Maine were Massachusetts, Minnesota, Virginia and Illinois. Of the 2,514 general hospitals that were issued a Hospital Safety Score, 780 earned an “A,” 638 earned a “B,” 932 earned a “C,” 148 earned a “D,” and 16 earned an “F.”

Nevada, Kansas, Oregon, West Virginia and New Mexico fared worse on the rating scale. New Mexico had the lowest percentage of “A” hospitals at 6.7%. Maryland was not included in the study due to insufficient publicly available data. 

Overall, the most improved safety measure among all hospitals was Computerized Physician Order Entry, which reduces errors due to handwriting and transcription and provides error checking for incorrect doses or tests.

Patient safety continues to pose an issue in the United States, as roughly one quarter of hospitalized patients suffer one form of harm or another.  In general, the report indicated little significant change in patient safety.  Only 1.9% of hospitals moved two or more grade levels up or down, while a large majority — 73.9% — received the same score as in the previous report.