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How the Hospital Inspections Database Came to Life

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 21, 2013

Troubleshooting begins
Ornstein noticed that some reports weren't uploaded. In fact, several of CMS' 10 regions weren't uploading some reports into CMS' central computer system at all.  "It took time to identify" the problem, and still several thousand narrative reports that detail violations are missing. Large numbers of reports from key states like California weren't there.

So the database launched on Saturday with 5,251 deficiencies that have narrative reports, but another 2,895 are missing narratives, Ornstein says. Also missing are reports on psychiatric, rehab, and long-term hospitals, and reports on general surveys done at random, not in response to complaints.

The site is imperfect and incomplete, but it is live.

Jeff Selberg, executive vice president and COO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, MA says he understands  hospital executives' concerns, which he said "are borne out of fear."  But that shouldn't really affect whether the reports are made more accessible, he said.

"I'm an outlier in terms of my approach to how the industry feels," Selberg continued. "I believe you have to start from where you are, that you perfect the data by putting it out in whatever form you have it, and perfect it over time.  I would hope that the association (AHCJ) continues to push to improve to the degree it stimulates a better and more readable format."

"Across industries, public accountability results in more diligence toward improvement."

Ornstein sees this period in the process as just the beginning of "a major paradigm shift for (CMS) to be putting these reports on line. I hope they will expand the information and make it even more robust and useful."

Let's hope he's right.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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