Evidence is now in on the benefits of public access to data on provider outcomes. The Joint Commission released a report on hospital quality and safety in March entitled Improving America’s Hospitals: A Report on Quality and Safety. The report indicated that the Joint Commission’s Quality Check web site and Hospital Compare (operated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) [CMS]) have improved transparency and quality in hospitals.

Both two sites have led to an “unprecedented and effective level of accountability,” said Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Carolyn Clancy. Joint Commission President Dennis O’Leary added “I think most organizations want to do the best job they can. Obviously, when you make that data public, it raises the ante further.”

The report tracked how more than 3,000 hospitals performed on 15 performance measures between 2002 and 2005. Significant improvements achieved by hospitals were included providing smoking cessation advice to pneumonia patients, using specific interventions for heart attack patients, and providing heart failure patients with discharge instructions.

Many of the items tracked by the report are widely-accepted best practices—the type of long-established best practices that most patient-consumers take for granted that doctors or other medical staff are providing. The report and the Web sites of the Joint Commission and CMS are powerful eye-openers to patients, providing evidence that they don’t get the same quality of care from any hospital. In large cities, where patient-consumers can select the hospital for their care, patients are more likely to attend a hospital that is rated highly, especially when their insurance guarantees they will pay the same amount at either hospital.

Researchers believe that, for hospitals which did well in these studies, public reporting is increasing teamwork among medical staff. It is also lessening the healthcare system’s reliance on physicians to ensure that quality care was provided in the specific procedures being measured. Because hospitals, rather than individual physicians, are being profiled, everyone at the hospital is more willing to pitch in and raise the hospital’s quality and outcomes.

Dark Daily observes that the improvements posted by hospitals participating in this program are a direct result of several changes implemented by The Joint Commission. Among these are reforms to the survey system to include surprise inspections and a tracer methodology that tracks the care given an individual patient. Further, the resulting reports and hospital rankings were posted online. Dark Daily believes that these systemic improvements are likely to be adapted to monitor and rank the performance of every type of healthcare service provider.

This will include clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. Laboratory organizations already implementing quality management principles into their operations are likely to have a head start on achieving high performance rankings. They are improving the performance of individual work processes, leading to improved quality, fewer errors, and higher physician and patient satisfaction.

Related Articles:

Improving America’s Hospitals: A Report on Quality and Safety

A Boost for Transparency (Modern Healthcare subscription required)