Our Illinois medical malpractice lawyers have long advocated for as much information as possible to be made available to community members about the quality of care provided by local medical professionals. Accountability and the improvements that follow can only be had if patients and their families have access to hospital quality data. Little is gained by keeping this information secret-worse yet is failing to collect it at all.
Fortunately, many patient safety advocates are hard at work in an effort to ensure that information about hospital performance is made available to consumers in workable format. For example, as explained this weekend at Modern Healthcare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) unveiled a new website with a wealth of useful data on healthcare performance. According to CMS Administrator Dr Donald Berwick, the new site is intended to be a “one stop shop” for all consumers who wish to examine information of the quality of services provided by their area hospital, home healthcare company, or dialysis provider. Understanding hospital quality and evaluating possible improvements requires that available data be provided in workable format that allows for comparison. The CMS intends to provide those features on the new website.
Overall, the information currently available on the site indicates that hospital quality nationwide seems to have changed little in the past few years. For example, 30-day readmission rates for heart attack victims was at 19.8% in the three year stretch from 2010-1007 and it was at 19.9% in the three year period before that. Similarly using the three-year comparison period, heart failure readmission rates were at 24.8% percent and 24.5% before that.
Examining these readmission rates is a good barometer to measure the quality of care received by victims of these common conditions. In fact, CMS has initiated a new Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program geared toward improving these figures and reducing medical mistakes. Under the new project, hospitals with the highest readmission rates will receive lower reimbursements from CMS. Hospital performance will be based on comparisons with the data currently available on the new public website.
This website is an important step forward in ensuring an open and honest relay of information to healthcare consumers. Each Chicago medical malpractice attorney at our firm understands the value of empowering residents with knowledge about the performance of their local healthcare professionals. Patients who understand that that they have options when it comes to their care will be drawn to those facilities that have the best results. In so doing, substandard facilities that are the site of many cases of Illinois medical malpractice will be forced to either enact changes to improve their services or fold. In either case, the overall quality of care is improved.
Time and again the power of accountability and consumer choice has been shown to improve quality and spur innovation. There is no reason why this lesson should not apply to hospital, doctor, and nurse performance. In fact, there is likely no area where quality matters more than in the healthcare context. State and federal actors should continue this positive trend and make as much information available to patients as possible. Lives may well be saved in the long-term thorough these openness efforts.
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