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HL20: Charles Ornstein—Pushing Healthcare Transparency for the Public Good

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, December 3, 2013

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Charles Ornstein.

This profile was published in the December, 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

"When reporters write about problems within the healthcare system, the goal is that the problems will be fixed."

It's hard to make an argument against transparency in healthcare.

When pressed, hospitals, insurers, nursing homes, physicians, and government officials all say they're "for it" and go on about how transparency will play a critical role in "bending the cost curve" by allowing patients to become wise consumers of their healthcare dollars.

When it's time to go public, however, that altruism often evaporates, as few really want anyone else to know how much they charge for something, or how much they get paid for it, or if they're having quality issues. So that heralded release of information is delayed, or it's hidden in a massive data dump, or it's placed into a context that most consumers could never fathom.

Charles Ornstein and the investigative reporters at the independent, nonprofit news organization ProPublica—often also working with the nonprofit Association of Health Care Journalists—have led several initiatives in the past three years that create easier access to critical healthcare data on quality and cost.

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