Surgeries today are increasingly performed in hospital outpatient centers and ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), yet there is practically no independent, consumer-friendly data about the safety and quality of care in these settings. The lack of accessible data comes as many purchasers guide patients to lower-priced settings, and often design benefits to steer appropriate patients to ASCs.
Since 2011, the Quality Institute has worked to increase transparency around ASCs in New Jersey. Our initial work led the state Department of Health to post certain inspection reports online, and, earlier this year, a law was passed to license one-room surgical practices in the same manner as ASCs — a move we’ve long called for to protect consumers.
Last year, with the insight of Quality Institute member ASCs and other interested members, we revisited the issue of transparency of ASC quality and safety information. We found that more state inspection information is now available. Yet to obtain much of that information we still needed to file an Open Public Records Act request. And federal inspection data was not available at all if a private accreditation organization conducted the inspection, which is often the case.
Most important, the inspection reports are not a consumer-friendly source of actionable information to help people make informed decisions about where to receive care. Inspection information is full of medical jargon and ordinary course inspections are conducted only about every four years. The information is not timely, or easily understandable, to have much value for consumers.
That’s why at the Quality Institute we fully support The Leapfrog Group’s expansion of its safety survey outside the hospital walls. For the first time, Leapfrog will begin to collect safety data on ASCs through a voluntary survey starting in April 2019, and hospital outpatient surgery departments will report similar data through a new section to the existing Leapfrog Hospital Survey.
Leapfrog is the right organization to take on this extensive and greatly needed work. The organization has experience gathering information about quality and safety of inpatient care for nearly 20 years and knows how to present that information in a way that’s meaningful to consumers.
In New Jersey, our hospitals have stepped up and embraced transparency. We have 94 percent of hospitals voluntarily submitting data to Leapfrog, the highest participation rate of any state in the nation (except Montana, which has all two of its hospitals report). As the regional leader for Leapfrog, the Quality Institute works closely with hospitals on the inpatient survey. We’ve seen how hospitals use the survey to proactively strengthen and compete on quality and safety.
We’re eager to see those same changes in the outpatient arena. Please share the news of the new survey with outpatient centers and encourage them to participate in the survey. Please also consider attending a half-day training with Leapfrog on November 6 in Chicago. Participants will gain in-depth knowledge of Leapfrog’s Hospital Survey and Hospital Safety Grade programs, as well as the new ASC Survey. Learn more and register here. Soon, I hope to be able to say New Jersey has the highest rate of participation in the nation on the ASC survey.