Public Policy

Shaun Frost: Call for Transparency in Healthcare Performance Results to Impact Hospitalists


Patients have a vested interest in knowing how their care providers perform. A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that 72% of consumers ranked provider reputation and personal experience as the top drivers of provider choice.

Table 1. Strategies for Achieving Transparency in Healthcare Performance1

  • Healthcare delivery organizations should collect and expand the availability of information on the safety, quality, prices and cost,
  • and health outcomes of care.
  • Professional specialty societies should encourage transparency on the quality, value, and outcomes of the care provided by their members.
  • Public and private payors should promote transparency in quality, value, and outcomes to aid plan members in their care
  • decision-making.
  • Consumer and patient organizations should disseminate this information to facilitate discussion, informed decision-making, and care improvement.

Table 2. Publicly Reported Hospital Performance Information Located on the Hospital Compare Website2

  • Process-of-care measures reflecting the timeliness and effectiveness of care delivery (12 myocardial infarction measures, four CHF measures, six pneumonia measures, three childhood asthma measures, and 12 surgical measures).
  • Outcomes measures (30-day death rates for specific conditions, 30-day readmission rates for specific conditions, serious complications, hospital-acquired conditions, and healthcare-associated infections).
  • Imaging appropriateness (e.g. percentage of patients who received cardiac stress tests before low-risk surgery).
  • Patient-reported experiences of care (e.g. satisfaction with the quality of communication received from doctors).
  • Condition-specific treatment volumes by number of patient discharges a hospital treated according to MS DRG.
  • Cost-effectiveness by Medicare spending per beneficiary.

Policymakers believe that publicly reporting healthcare performance results is essential to improving care delivery. In order to achieve a healthcare system that is consistently reliable, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently recommended that performance transparency be considered a foundational feature of healthcare systems that seek to constantly, systematically, and seamlessly improve.1 The IOM has suggested strategies (see Table 1, right) for producing readily available information on safety, quality, prices and cost, and health outcomes. As these strategies are being deployed, it is essential that hospitalists consider the impact they will have on their personal practice, key stakeholders, and the patients that they serve.

Performance Data Sources

The accessibility of publicly reported healthcare performance information is increasing rapidly. Among HM practitioners, perhaps the most widely recognized data source is the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital Compare website ( According to CMS, its performance information on more than 4,000 hospitals is intended to help patients make decisions about where to seek healthcare, as well as encourage hospitals to improve the quality of care they provide.

The information currently reported is extensive and comprehensive (see Table 2, right). Furthermore, CMS continually adds data as new performance measures are created and validated.

Beyond the federal government, private health insurance companies, consortiums of employer purchasers of healthcare (e.g. the Leapfrog Group), and community collaboratives (e.g. Minnesota Community Measurement in the state of Minnesota) are reporting care provider performance information.

In addition, consumer advocacy groups have entered the picture. Earlier this year, Consumer Reports magazine launched an initiative to rate the quality of hospitals (and cardiac surgery groups) through the publication of patient outcomes (central-line-associated bloodstream infections, surgical site infections, readmissions, complications, mortality), patient experience (communications about medications and discharge, and other markers of satisfaction), and hospital best practices (use of EHR, and the appropriate use of abdominal and chest CT scanning). Consumer Reports also provides a composite hospital safety score, and a 36-page technical manual explaining the strategy and methodology behind their ratings.

Public performance reporting is furthermore becoming big business for healthcare entrepreneurs. Castlight Health, with its $181 million in private capital backing, is viewed by some as the “Travelocity of healthcare.” Castlight calls its searchable databases “transparency portals” that allow consumers to understand, before they visit a care provider, what they will be paying and how the care provider ranks on quality and outcomes.

Finally, numerous unregulated Internet sites that employ methodologically questionable practices are reporting on healthcare performance. Many of these sources collect and publish subjective reports of care experiences, with little or no requirement that the reporter confirm the nature of the relationship that they have with the care provider.

Transparency and Key Stakeholders

The hospital that you work in expects you to know how it performs, and to help it improve in the areas over which you have influence. Hospitals monitor publicly reported data because their futures depend on strong performance. As of October 2012, hospital Medicare reimbursement is linked to publicly reported performance measures that were incorporated into CMS’ value-based purchasing (VBP) initiative. Furthermore, hospital market share will be increasingly dependent on performance transparency as consumers and patients utilize these data to make informed decisions about where to seek high-value healthcare.

Patients have a vested interest in knowing how their care providers perform. A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that 72% of consumers ranked provider reputation and personal experience as the top drivers of provider choice.2 Furthermore, employers and patients increasingly are demanding access to care affordability information—an interest driven in large part by the increasing popularity of consumer-directed health insurance plans (CDHPs). Under CDHPs, patients save money on premiums in exchange for higher deductibles that are typically paired with healthcare spending accounts. The intent is to increase consumer engagement and awareness of the cost of routine healthcare expenses while protecting against the cost of catastrophic events. It is estimated that 15% to 20% of people with employer-sponsored health insurance are in high-deductible plans, and many believe CDHPs will soon make up the majority of employer-provided coverage.

Patients interested in knowing how individual doctors perform will soon have increased access to this type of information as well. For example, CMS also produces a Physician Compare website ( that offers performance information on individual doctors. Currently, Physician Compare has little detailed information. Expect this to change, however, as Medicare moves forward with developing valid and reliable individual physician performance metrics for its Physician Value-Based Payment Modifier (VBPM) program (see “A New Measuring Stick,”).

Under VBPM, doctors will have payment modifiers assigned to their Medicare professional fee claims that will adjust payments based on the value of care that they have delivered historically. For example, it is possible in the future that physicians failing to prescribe ace inhibitors to heart failure patients will be paid less than physicians who universally provide evidence-based, best-practice heart failure care. The measurement period for the calculation of these modifiers begins this year, and hospitalists need to be aware that their performance after this time period might affect the amount of Medicare professional fee reimbursement they receive in the future.


Public performance reporting is a keystone healthcare reform strategy that will influence the behavior and practice patterns of hospitals and hospitalists. Hospitalists should regularly review publicly reported healthcare performance data, and commit to working collaboratively with colleagues to capitalize on improvement opportunities suggested by these data.

Dr. Frost is president of SHM.


  1. Institute of Medicine. Best care at lower cost: The path to continuously learning health care in America. Institute of Medicine website. Available at: Accessed Nov. 24, 2012.
  2. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute. Customer experience in healthcare: the moment of truth. PricewaterhouseCoopers website. Available at: Accessed Nov. 25, 2012.

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