Study to Track Effect of Quality Data on Consumer Decisions, Hospital Safety
Researchers at the University of Oregon will use a $530,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to conduct the first study of how publicizing hospitals' medical error rates affects consumer choice and hospital performance, the Portland Oregonian reports. CMS and several private organizations, including health plans and consumer advocacy groups, are planning to provide consumers with comparative health care quality data -- often via the Internet -- to encourage consumers to choose higher-quality providers and to pressure providers to improve patient safety. The three-year study is the first to analyze whether consumers use information about hospital error rates to choose their providers and whether public reporting leads to fewer errors. Judith Hibbard, a professor of planning, public policy and management at the University of Oregon and the lead investigator for the study, said, "As consumers start to understand that there really are differences in quality, there is going to be more interest and demand for comparative information."
Many hospital officials, however, believe that flaws in methodology and data often render the results of hospital "report cards" misleading or meaningless. The use of billing reports to collect data about complications and mortality rates is most commonly cited by hospital officials as a major problem with the report cards. According to some hospital officials, the reports are too vague to reflect quality of care. Diane Peters, a vice president of the Wisconsin Hospital Association, said, "Billing practices will affect the outcome of [billing reports] more than actual patient care practices will." Groups that sponsor quality reporting initiatives, such as the Wisconsin Employer Health Care Cooperative Alliance, disagree. Alliance Director Cheryl DeMars said, "The billing data is certainly sufficient for the measures we are reporting." She added that the alliance wants consumers to have at least as much information about health care decisions as they have "to make decisions about buying a refrigerator or a car" (Rojas-Burke, Portland Oregonian, 11/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.