Majority of U.S. Hospitals Still Fail to Implement ICU Policies Known to Dramatically Lower Patient Death Rates

Jul 14, 2016

Analysis of The Leapfrog Hospital Survey by Castlight Health Shows Less Than Half of Hospitals Met Standard for Specialized Physician Coverage

WASHINGTON, DC – Hospital intensive care units (ICU) see 4.6 million people annually, among them some of the nation’s sickest and most vulnerable patients. Studies show that patient survival increases by 40 percent when ICUs are staffed appropriately with highly specialized physicians called intensivists, yet a new report released today by health care non-profit The Leapfrog Group and analyzed by Castlight Health indicates that only 47 percent of hospitals reporting in the 2015 Leapfrog Hospital Survey have the recommended intensivist coverage in place. Leapfrog’s standard calls for hospitals to have one or more board-certified intensivists on staff, exclusively providing care in the ICU, available for eight hours per day, seven days a week, and for intensivists to return calls within five minutes, 95 percent of the time. Hospitals can partially meet the standard by having intensivists available via telemedicine.

“Having an intensivist present in the ICU saves lives, period,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog. “Patients and families should be on high alert if their hospital lacks this essential coverage. Moreover, if their hospital has declined to report at all, the public has no way of knowing about how the ICU is staffed. Patients who find that their hospital did not respond to the Leapfrog Hospital Survey should send a note to hospital administrators explaining why they want this information and expect full transparency.”

ICU Staffing Report

Key findings from the report include:

  • Hospitals’ adoption of ICU physician staffing standards varies by state: The percentage of hospitals meeting Leapfrog’s standard was highest in Arizona, where 87 percent of reporting hospitals in the state met the standard. At least 60 percent of hospitals met the standard in six additional states, while in 10 states, fewer than 30 percent of hospitals did. There was no state in which 90 percent or more of hospitals met the standard.
  • Implementation of ICU physician staffing has increased steadily, but has yet to surpass the 50 percent mark: In 2007, only 30 percent of hospitals had ICU physician staffing that met Leapfrog’s standards. By 2015, that rate had increased to 47 percent. In recent years, there has been a slow but steady increase of one to four percentage points.
  • More transparency is needed: Some hospitals decline to report on their ICU staffing, which should raise concerns for patients. There is no other publicly available source for this information.

“Hospital quality and cost information is vital to enabling individuals to make the best choices for their health,” said Kristin Torres Mowat, senior vice president of plan development and data operations at Castlight Health. “Leapfrog’s data illustrates how essential it is to report ICU physician staffing. Proper intensivist staffing is crucial to the proper care of patients with the most critical need. This study and Leapfrog’s work are important to driving visibility and change in hospital practices, which will ultimately lead to better patient care.”

Today’s report is the last in this year’s series of five that examines key quality and safety measures at hospitals nationwide. The series draws on data from the 2015 Leapfrog Hospital Survey of 1,750 U.S. hospitals, representing 60 percent of the inpatient beds nationwide, with analysis provided by Castlight Health. Previous publications in the series can be found at

About The Leapfrog Group

Founded in 2000 by large employers and other purchasers, The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization driving a movement for giant leaps forward in the quality and safety of American health care. The flagship Leapfrog Hospital Survey collects and transparently reports hospital performance, empowering purchasers to find the highest-value care and giving consumers the lifesaving information they need to make informed decisions. Hospital Safety Score, Leapfrog’s other main initiative, assigns letter grades to hospitals based on their record of patient safety, helping consumers protect themselves and their families from errors, injuries, accidents, and infections.

About Castlight Health

Our mission is to empower people to make the best choices for their health and to help companies make the most of their health benefits. We offer a health benefits platform that engages employees to make better healthcare decisions and guide them to the right program, care, and provider. The platform also enables benefit leaders to communicate and measure their programs while driving employee engagement with targeted, relevant communications. Castlight has partnered with enterprise customers, spanning millions of lives, to improve healthcare outcomes, lower costs, and increase benefits satisfaction.

For more information visit Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn and Like us on Facebook.CONTACTSAshley Duvall
Stern Strategy Group (on behalf of The Leapfrog Group)
[email protected]

Jim Rivas
Castlight Health
[email protected]

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