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 (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov). 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.