Good news, hospital marketing directors! The government shutdown message on the CMS Hospital Compare website has been updated and it looks like we're back on track for a December 12 data refresh.
If the prospect of explaining your hospital's quality performance (again) makes you feel like calling in sick, you're not alone. From our earliest years in school we learn that talking about report cards is no fun - particularly if a sibling or neighbor down the street has something to crow about.
But the reality is that hospital quality, in general, continues to improve. According to The Joint Commission, their accredited hospitals in 2012 achieved 97.6 percent composite accountability on core measures - an improvement of 15.8 percentage points since 2002. So even if your hospital doesn't score quite as well as a competitor in your market, you may be able to share a few positive sound bites with stakeholders and reporters to help bring balance their analysis.
In addition to Hospital Compare, healthcare providers and consumers (as well as reporters) can access WhyNotTheBest.org, a transparency effort of the Commonwealth Fund that produces side-by-side comparisons of 4,500 hospitals nationwide, tracks performance over time and provides numerous benchmarks. Unlike the CMS site, which provides somewhat clunky, measure-by-measure graphs among up to three hospitals, WhyNotTheBest has a nimble, intuitive interface that provides a numbered ranking in a visual format. If your hospital performs well in their analysis (which includes core measure data, but also factors in information from the CDC, AHRQ and other sources), this website can be a real boon in your tool kit for educating stakeholders and the media.
If the data refresh still makes you feel like the flu is coming on, remember: transparency sites are useful tools, but they only tell a part of a hospital's story, and even "refreshed" data is inherently dated. Patients making decisions about hospital care should speak with their physicians, talk to family members and friends about personal experiences, and arrange to visit their local hospitals to be truly informed consumers.
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