Hospital Quality Reporting Program Had Little Impact on Death Rates

This article published with permission from The Burrill Report.

Public report cards on hospital quality had no impact on reducing death rates for two key health conditions, according to a recent study of Medicare’s Hospital Compare program. What’s more, patients didn’t use them to find higher quality hospitals.

Hospital Compare is a consumer-oriented website that provides information on how well hospitals provide recommended care to their patients. The program allows consumers to look for a hospital that meets or exceeds expectations when it comes to quality of care.

Authors of the study, which appears in the March issue of the journal Health Affairs, write that while public reporting of quality measures has been widely implemented in health care to increase transparency and accountability, spur quality improvements and steer patients toward high-quality providers, the program has had a minimal impact on patient mortality. The report cards are under-used by patients and often ignored by referring physicians, authors of the study write.

“The jury's still out on Medicare's effort to improve hospital quality of care by posting death rates and other metrics on a public website,” says lead author Andrew Ryan, an assistant professor of public health at the Weill Cornell Medical College. “Additional studies must prove that public reporting does in fact push hospitals to raise the quality of care standard.”

Ryan and colleagues from the University of Michigan Medical School sought to clarify whether reporting improvements have reduced risk-adjusted mortality. They found that there was little or no impact in reducing mortality rates within hospitals beyond existing trends for heart attack and pneumonia, though there was a modest impact on reducing deaths from heart failure.

The study’s authors suggest that future research should examine how the Hospital Compare program could be better structured to encourage improved patient outcomes and the use of high-quality hospitals.

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