Healthcare News & Insights

CMS may make more hospital inspection data public

This month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its latest proposed rule for hospital inpatient payments. Many changes were tucked into the payment rule, including one that may affect how the public views your facility and its quality of care. 

As part of the new rule, CMS wants to make hospital inspection data that was previously private open to the public. An article recently published in NPR talks about the change.

Specifically, CMS is concerned that private organizations that accredit facilities and perform inspections (such as the Joint Commission) aren’t noticing big problems at hospitals.

Example: In 2014, after state officials inspected 103 hospitals that had been recently reviewed by accreditors, they found 41 serious deficiencies throughout the facilities. Only two had been discovered by accreditors.

Because of this lack of oversight, CMS wants to make inspection results more transparent. As part of the proposed inpatient payment rule, the agency wants to require private accrediting organizations to release public reports detailing each problem that was discovered during an inspection, including medical errors and adverse events, along with the steps hospitals are taking to fix them.

The effort is similar to what CMS has already done with certain types of hospitals and nursing homes, mandating the publication of nursing home deficiency reports that highlight the issues uncovered during inspections. These reports are accessible to the public online.

Response from stakeholders

Accrediting bodies and other hospital organizations have mixed feelings about the mandate. While the Joint Commission hasn’t yet made a statement, the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program has said it supports increased transparency and is currently looking at whether the change will create an additional administrative burden for hospitals and inspectors.

The Joint Commission has typically resisted making the full content of its hospital inspection reports public. While the public can currently check whether a hospital met the standards for accreditation, little more information is available – even if hospitals are temporarily denied accreditation status for any reason.

Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association (AHA) said in a statement that it agrees with providing consumers with “useful information” about the quality of care in hospitals. However, inspection reports may not be the right way to deliver the message. It might be difficult for the average person to root through pages of a detailed report, trying to find the information they need about a hospital.

Instead, according to the AHA, a better move might be to create a short (one or two page) “accurate summary” about the findings in the report. The summary would highlight the most critical takeaways and why they’re so important, while also listing the hospital’s action plan for correcting any issues.

Time will tell whether CMS incorporates these suggestions into its final rule. Comments on this aspect of the proposed hospital inpatient payment rule, along with other areas CMS is thinking of changing, will be accepted from April 28, when it’s officially published on the Federal Register, until June 13. We’ll keep you posted on any updates.

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