However, she says, "this initial display is both evidence of our commitment to robust public reporting of data, and an opportunity to look for patterns in the data across hospitals. For example, we may be able to learn if MRSA or C Diff in hospitalized patients is more of an issue in particular regions or states, and to begin to try to understand why that might be occurring."
Foster is more cautious about use of the all-cause readmission rates, saying that "serious questions" have been raised about whether an all-cause readmission rate should be included in the healthcare reform law's readmission reduction program, which penalizes hospitals with the highest readmission rates up to 3% of their Medicare DRG rates.
Because hospitals that serve populations with the most serious economic disadvantages and which have more serious chronic health conditions tend to have higher rates of readmissions. That means they tend to have greater readmission rate penalties than hospitals with healthier and wealthier patients.
"It is important that we review all new readmission measures, look for potential adverse consequences, particularly adverse consequences for patients, from implementation of the measures, and fully understand what the use of those measures would mean before deciding whether to include them in any payment program," she says.
Foster says she looks forward to analyzing the all-cause readmission rate data "and to viewing others' analyses to better understand the data and its implications."
Leapfrog Group Reaction to Hospital Compare Updates
Leah Binder, President and CEO of The Leapfrog Group, which publishes hospital safety scores twice a year, says the latest Hospital Compare update contains both "good news and bad news" for consumers and others who want to learn more about quality at individual hospitals.