We turn to the Internet to help us make all kinds of decisions — especially in health care.  And we’ve come a long way in our ability to obtain consumer friendly and accessible information on hospital safety and quality. Moreover, based on research by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and other respected organizations, we know that public transparency, along with payment incentives, definitively improves patient safety.

That’s why I am stunned that the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is pushing to make hospital safety information less transparent and less available to patients and caregivers. A proposed rule would remove certain patient safety measures (infection rates and injury rates) from the Inpatient Quality Reporting Program (IQR), effectively suppressing this critical data from public disclosure.  The proposed changes would also impact reporting by Long Term Care Hospitals. CMS proposes to discontinue the public reporting of MRSA and Ventilator Associated Event Outcome measures. You can learn more about the proposed changes in Leapfrog’s Call to Action.

This proposal has me deeply concerned. Consumers are not clamoring for these changes. Neither are employers or other health care purchasers. And hospitals and providers who are committed to providing high quality care to their patients voluntarily report safety data to The Leapfrog Group; which is important because Leapfrog is the only publicly available source for this data by brick and mortar hospital. In fact, yesterday, July 25, Leapfrog publicly posted the most recent Hospital Safety Survey results. Almost all of New Jersey’s hospitals voluntarily reported to Leapfrog. And most use the survey as a quality improvement tool.

We can’t go backward. We need the outliers in New Jersey that don’t report to Leapfrog to step up. And we need federal officials to work to publish more, not less, meaningful information for purchasers, patients and caregivers.

Rather than getting rid of reporting requirements, the focus should be on ensuring that patients have easy-to-understand, accurate, relevant, and actionable information that can affect their decisions about their own health care.

You can find the newest Leapfrog Hospital Safety Survey results here.  You can see which hospitals are voluntarily reporting and which are not. And read the letter that the Quality Institute and many of our members sent to CMS here. Join us in moving ahead, not back into the shadows, on public reporting of patient safety measures.