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

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 16, 2013

Leapfrog Group's President and CEO Leah Binder and others expressed concern that the government was relinquishing its commitment to transparency. Leapfrog, a non-profit organization, uses some of those same measures to compile its twice-annual composite score in which thousands of hospitals get an A, B, C, D or F in patient safety.

The problem is, the Bloomberg story was erroneous, CMS officials told me. I don't want to pick on Bloomberg; Lord knows they've got enough problems on their hands this week. And I understand why the error occurred–there's enough blame to go around to numerous entities.

The culprit is complexity
The biggest culprit is the complexity of the rule-making process, and the difficulty in making sure that measures do what they're supposed to do, and aren't just artifacts of coding errors when hospitals submit claims.

Patrick Conway, MD, CMS chief medical director, explained some of the details to me in a lengthy "on background" phone interview last week. But he stressed that none of the data elements in question are being removed. How they are reported may change a bit, but the public will still be able to see rates of patient harm for almost every measure and then some in future reimbursement years.

What is changing, he explains, is that some of these measures will no longer be part of the Inpatient Quality Reporting program, for which hospitals have received a 2% market basket pay increase in exchange for reporting the data. CMS will still get the data, but the hospitals won't get paid for submitting it.

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