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How the Hospital Inspections Database Came to Life

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 21, 2013

Though still incomplete, with major gaps, the keyword-searchable site helps payers and patients know which hospitals persistently fail Medicare's "conditions of participation," and caused or came close to causing patient harm or death.

And it can help all healthcare organizations know more about the circumstances and frequency with which these harmful events occur so work can be done to prevent them.

Providers React
"We're concerned that this new tool, while well-intentioned, provides information without context and creates more confusion than clarity," said Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of the 250-member National Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. "Worse, it tells patients only half the story by failing to include hospital responses and plans of correction."

Joanne Conroy, MD, chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges and a former hospital CEO, said, "What they've done is a huge data dump… And it will be a challenge for this website to give real  information that will drive real change….to figure out within groups of similar episodes what might be a common thread."

Nancy Foster, vice president of quality and patient safety for the American Hospital Association, said it's "hard for even a seasoned healthcare policymaker to understand the CMS documents or thoughtfully apply them to make informed decisions."

For example, state survey teams usually write these reports on behalf of CMS, and these teams "vary considerably in size, experience, expertise and training" resulting in differences in the number and types of citations. Notably, Foster said, because in some areas such as fire safety, CMS requirements are more than a decade out of date, a hospital may have modernized, and be non-complaint with an obsolete rule.

Yes, hospitals are nervous. They weren't told about this project in advance, so they couldn't stop it.

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