HospitalCompare, the website developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide a snapshot of the quality performance of community hospitals, will celebrate its 10th anniversary later this spring. Based on self-reported hospital data collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the site was and remains the cornerstone for insights into how well hospitals care for patients, meet certain quality expectations and provide safe and clinically sound environments for care.
Unfortunately for consumers, HospitalCompare began as a clunky, hard-to-understand databank with a fairly sterile and unfriendly graphic interface. While it’s matured in its first 10 years, it remains an uncomfortable tool for the non-clinical – but an important one, nonetheless.
Additional quality transparency sites have sprung up in the last decade, presenting the CMS info in increasingly easy to navigate and consumer friendly ways: the Commonwealth Fund’s WhyNotTheBest.org is my personal favorite, but the Leapfrog Group and several insurance company efforts also bring value to this space.
With a HospitalCompare data refresh expected in April, here a few thoughts on how to share your hospital’s story if the news is good … as well as a few considerations if the data is less than first-in-class.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it! Many hospitals will report if they’re a Joint Commission Top Performer or Lucent 100 Top Hospital, but they’re much less likely to show off really strong core measure performance as reported on HospitalCompare. Certainly, there are potential risks if your numbers change dramatically or your competitors pull up their scores, but if you’re a head and shoulders leader in your market, let consumers know!
Middle of the pack? If your hospital isn’t necessarily at the front of the line among competitors, be sure to understand how you compare to state or national averages. Also notice if your hospital has consistently improved over time; year over year increases in core measure performance, or consistent reductions in hospital acquired infections or mortality, can be important info to illustrate your commitment to patient care and quality.
Be prepared if you’re lagging behind. In today’s transparent world, hiding your head in the sand and hoping patients won’t learn of your numbers is bad strategy. If your facility’s scores aren’t up to state and national averages or competitor performance, be prepared to explain how your hospital is committed to providing quality care, efforts that have been undertaken to improve and whether you’re already seeing improvements in your real-time metrics (understanding that HospitalCompare data often lags 12 – 15 months behind).
Whether the HospitalCompare data refresh means good scores or bad news for your hospital, be prepared to share – or defend – your hospital’s quality story.
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