Deep down, we knew it would come to this.
If quality of care is ever going to improve, providers must make the big leap from merely tracking process measures, like whether a hospitalized patient got an appropriate drug, to logging whenever complications resulted from their interventions.
Did patients develop surgical infections? Did they require a ventilator for more than 48 hours? Did operations have to be repeated? Were the hospital's rates of renal failure or blood clots higher than average? Did patients require longer lengths of stay? And of course, did any doctor's patients have a higher rate of dying?
This information should be transparent to payers and patients, not closely guarded secrets that only a hospital's insiders get to know. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the way it is today.
Beyond the care team, other hospitals' physicians, payers, employers who buy health plans, and the general public don't get to know that stuff.
But everything, in all likelihood, is about to change in a way that leads to much greater transparency. A few poorly publicized paragraphs in the New Year's Fiscal Cliff law are poised to speed it along this year.
Today, these surgical and procedural complications and their details are gathered by a growing number of physician specialty societies that designed data registries specifically for their members who volunteer their data. The idea as it began, was noble, says Robert Wachter, MD, Chairman of the American Board of Internal Medicine and an expert on adverse medical events.