Leah Binder is CEO of the Leapfrog Group, which was founded in 2000 by a group of large employers interested in improving safety, quality and affordability among hospitals and other health care providers. The nonprofit coalition is a champion of transparency and evidence-based medicine. It gathers and reports data on hospital safety and quality. In October, the group released its annual Hospital Safety Score, which grades more than 2,600 hospitals on patient safety. Binder spoke with Workforce about the group’s evolution.
Workforce: What is the Leapfrog Group?
Leah Binder: Our members are very large companies that were spending in some cases more on health benefits than they earned in profits. They founded Leapfrog because the health care system doesn’t truly function competitively. Hospitals and providers don’t compete on who’s providing the highest-quality care. And the reason they don’t compete is because we have almost no transparency in health care.
WF: How is Leapfrog helping to foster greater transparency?
Binder: Leapfrog was founded with the idea that purchasers from across the country would come together and use their collective leverage to persuade hospitals to publicly report information on their performance and use that information to inform their employees of the relative value of different hospitals and then to encourage employees to use the higher-performing hospitals. Leapfrog was the first to create a new ethic of transparency in the health care system.
WF: How did providers respond?
Binder: Some hospitals supported the effort. Leapfrog has always had a good number of hospitals that understand why it’s so important to have transparency and who believe that purchasers should be involved in the marketplace. We’ve also had our detractors among hospitals that are unhappy when purchasers ask them to report to the survey and are unhappy with having their information made public.
WF: How has health care reform affected Leapfrog’s work?
Binder: The trends in health care have created a greater sense of urgency around Leapfrog’s mission. We’ve never felt that our work is more important than we do today. There are really two tsunamis happening in health care. One tsunami is driven at the governmental level. The federal government has been pursuing the Affordable Care Act, and there are an enormous number of changes in the health care system due to this important legislation. But the other tsunami is a marketplace response to the growth in health care costs.
WF: What role have employers played and how much influence have they had on the shaping of the health care system?
Binder: In some sense that influence is just beginning, but I guess it started in the 1990s. Purchasers were very concerned about their health care costs, and they started to move toward managed care and HMOs. That’s when purchasers first started to realize that they could have a role in shaping their own destiny.