Healthcare News & Insights

Push for transparency: CMS makes hospital errors public again

Warning: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will resume publishing data about hospital-acquired conditions online.

Doctor at computerCMS originally started publishing the data on its Hospital Compare website, but recently it had been removed without explanation, according to an article in USA Today.

The website initially contained data about the frequency of occurrences such as leaving a foreign object in a patient’s body after surgery or giving a patient the wrong blood type for a transfusion. While CMS continued to update the site with other quality-related information, such as rates for hospital-acquired infections, reporting about these conditions was dropped with no explanation.

After the data was removed from the site, the raw numbers were still accessible via an online spreadsheet maintained by CMS, but eventually that disappeared too.

If hospitals thought that’d be the end of revealing this information, they were wrong.

Now CMS will be using a new strategy. While information about these adverse events will no longer be available on the Hospital Compare website, CMS will still published the data online and provide it to other researchers to interpret and use for quality ratings for hospitals.

Turning tide

Hospitals may not be comfortable with releasing this information because it may give potential patients the wrong impression. After all, instances where patients experience harm from an object being left in their bodies after surgery are few and far between – but the negative effects from just one such event on people’s perception of a facility can be significant.

However, making this data public is part of a growing trend allowing patients to be more informed consumers. And this pressure for transparency isn’t going away any time soon.

More and more, patients are treating health care as a business decision. Just as they’d shop around when buying a new car or purchasing a home, people are now looking at hospitals the same way.

Instead of fighting the trend and resenting the release of information, it’s best for hospitals to embrace this approach – and be more transparent themselves. While being honest about adverse events may lead to negative perceptions in the short term, using them as opportunities to improve hospital safety and quality will pay off over time.

Creating a transparent culture in your hospital that promotes safety and quality starts on the inside. Clinical staff should be encouraged to speak to highers-up about anything they see that could compromise patient safety – or any errors they notice.

And instead of taking punitive action, hospitals can use the adverse event as a learning experience to see where improvements can be made. That encourages more people to speak up, and makes your hospital provide better care in the long run.

When it comes to informing the public about these events, hospitals should do their best to control how others find out about this information. This way, they can frame their facilities in the best light possible. So rather than waiting for a government agency or a quality ratings group to release information about hospital-acquired conditions or adverse events, it’s best for hospitals to voluntarily release this information themselves.

Whether it’s via your hospital website or through a mailing sent to patients, being honest about any adverse events that occur in your hospital, and laying out the steps you’ll take to prevent future issues, will boost your image and dampen the negative consequences.

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