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Patient Harm Data to Remain on Medicare's Hospital Compare Site

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 16, 2013

An inaccurate media story about changes to Medicare's reporting on hospital-acquired conditions has sparked a flurry of criticism from patient safety advocates. Here's what's really going on.

Under its "Readmissions, Complications & Deaths" tab, Medicare's Hospital Compare website lists more than two dozen types of avoidable hospital-acquired conditions and the frequency with which they occur at most of the nation's 4,000 acute care hospitals.

One can see, for example, how often staff administered transfusions of mismatched blood, whether doctors lacerated organs during surgeries, the frequency with which lapsed hygiene protocols transmitted lethal infections, and how often surgeons forgot to remove objects like sponges or towels before closing incisions.

Patient advocates and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials believe such transparency is an important type of peer pressure that helps all hospitals do a better job to keep patients safe. Additionally, the increasing number of third-party hospital quality rating systems use many of these data points to configure safety scores or hospital rankings they distribute for free to the public.

So when a Bloomberg report two weeks ago said administration officials were planning to remove eight key hospital-acquired condition measures from Hospital Compare starting with the update scheduled for July, there was strong opposition from consumer groups.

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