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How CMS Makes Quality Data Public While Still Keeping It Secret

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, September 26, 2013

"I would think that from the hospital association's view, the level of reliability has to be 99.99999%. But for a consumer, they just want to know whether there was any foreign surgical object left in a patient in the hospital down the street,” she told HealthLeaders Media.

"These 'never events' happened," she adds. "And the public deserves to know about them happening. We [Binder and members of the Leapfrog quality task force] believe these measures are reliable enough to give a fair assessment."

Binder adds that she's disappointed CMS has made the data so difficult to find. "Obviously the CMS site was not designed to be easily accessible to consumers." But she says Leapfrog's safety score will publish them next month.

Asked for a comment, a CMS spokeswoman wrote in an email that "the data on data.cms.gov are accurate. Hospitals were given time to review these calculations and notify CMS of any discrepancies with the data."

Here's the way I see it: Either the data are reliable and accurate, as CMS claims they are, and in that case they should be clearly posted on Hospital Compare like they used to be. Or they are corrupted by flawed methodology, and should be dumped altogether until smarter people figure this out.

Consumers and healthcare competitors deserve to have confidence in their data, but CMS is not exactly showing us that. It seems like the agency wants to just be in two places at once, leaving those of us who want more information confused. And really, nowhere at all.


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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