Leah Binder Champions Patient Safety on the National Stage

Leah Binder

Patient safety expert Leah Binder, MA, MGA, is president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, an employer-driven national nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. With Binder at the helm, the award-winning organization collects data from hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers on the quality of care. Leapfrog also grades hospitals on how safe they are, a bold initiative experts estimate resulted in saving over 40,000 lives a year since 2017. Binder is consistently cited among the most influential people and top women in health care and in patient safety. As a partner, board member, and friend of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), she has aided the push for a National Patient Safety Board (NPSB) to reach new heights with a bright outlook for 2022. 

Binder has been a forerunner in galvanizing hospitals and health systems to improve their safety and quality of care, with years of experience in nonprofit administration. Her introduction to health care came through a position with the National League for Nursing as special assistant to the CEO, which ignited her passion for working in health care. This career path allowed Binder to honor her late father, who passed away around the time of her college graduation. "Making sure patients are treated with respect and kindness is really important to me, and that has resonated through my career in health care. It's why I wake up every day, determined to make it better," Binder says.

After a stint as a senior policy advisor for health services in the New York City Mayor's office, Binder went on to work for a rural hospital network. At the Franklin Community Health Network, which serves a small rural community in Farmington, Maine, Binder led a public health initiative and worked in communications.

Binder was first introduced to Leapfrog while working at Franklin. The state of Maine began using new standards for safety from Leapfrog for a new program, in which the state would waive their employees' copays for services from hospitals that met Leapfrog's standards. The Franklin community was unfamiliar with Leapfrog, and there was initial resistance when their hospital did not make the cut in the state's quality standards report. State employees in the community began to speak out about their copays when receiving services from Franklin, which spurred Franklin physicians to act. Leapfrog's high-caliber ratings sparked the Franklin staff's competitive nature and drove them to overhaul their patient safety, to the benefit of their patients, community, and reputation.

"It had this enormous, galvanizing impact on our operations, more than anything else ever had. Talking about patient safety or thinking we were good at it hadn't worked. This Leapfrog incentive program worked, for two reasons: because it was embarrassing, and secondly, because we need to be compared against our peers in order to truly understand how we were doing. We needed that level of transparency," Binder says.

When it came time to advance in the next step in her career, Binder was ready for the challenge and spotlight of becoming Leapfrog's CEO, finally reaching the position she was "born to be in." Now, Binder continues to advocate for patient safety change in hospitals and other healthcare settings. As they did for Franklin, Leapfrog's local, state, and national comparisons present a healthy challenge to many other hospitals.

Beyond her work with Leapfrog, Binder has partnered with JHF in the mission to advance healthcare innovation, advocacy, collaboration, and education in the interest of better population health. "I was very excited to join the JHF Board," Binder said, especially because of the opportunity to join the NPSB effort, and because of JHF President and CEO Karen Wolk Feinstein's leadership. "She has really led a charge to address patient safety…She just has this really beautiful vision of how a community can come together around improving the health of its people," Binder said.

Binder notes that the NPSB Advocacy Coalition has gained traction over the past year, unlike previous attempts to revolutionize patient safety in the United States. According to Binder, the NPSB will place patient safety at the center of a national healthcare agenda. "For too long we have sidelined [patient safety], or just scattered aspects of patient safety across a whole variety of agencies and efforts, and never as the most important priority," she says.

To recharge from her high-powered work, Binder spends time relaxing with her family, friends, and pets. She expresses excitement about continuing advocacy with JHF and the NPSB, and to be a part of finally advancing the patient safety movement in Pittsburgh and across the U.S. 

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