A national patient-safety group has come up with a simple way to compare hospitals -- by giving them a letter grade -- and included 38 Minnesota hospitals in its new report card.

The group, known as Leapfrog, graded 2,700 hospitals nationwide on a variety of safety measures, such as falls, infections and bed sores, in a report released Wednesday.

Among the A's: Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis and Mayo Clinic's Methodist Hospital in Rochester.

Among the C's: the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview; and Mayo's Immanuel St. Joseph's in Mankato.

A Minnesota hospital official said it's unlikely that the grades will be of much help to consumers and patients, because the scores can be skewed by small variations.

"There's probably very little difference between an A and a C," said Mark Sonneborn, vice president and data expert at the Minnesota Hospital Association.

The scores are based in large part on 15 measures tracked by Medicare and already posted online at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. They include antibiotic use after surgery, as well as post-operative complications.

"It's really a repackaging of what's publicly available," Sonneborn said.

He praised the group for trying to simplify the information for consumers but said there's no "really good methodology to do that."

The report includes only about a quarter of Minnesota hospitals; the rest were excluded because they were too small or specialized to meet the criteria. The report is at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384