How the Hospital Inspections Database Came to Life

Cheryl Clark, March 21, 2013

It's no surprise that hospital chiefs would be stunned and nervous—and some perhaps downright angry—in learning suddenly this week about an electronic database showing 8,000 serious quality and safety violations in about 1,000 hospitals, many in gritty detail, with a few keyboard clicks.

No longer do journalists and members of the public need to file Freedom of Information Act Requests, and wait weeks or months for a government response for many of these documents. Now they can go directly to

Providers may also be a bit chagrined because the new tool was not created by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which authorized the complaint investigations that resulted in these reports, but by persistent leaders of the nearly 1,500-member Association of Health Care Journalists. The AHCJ has perseverated with requests for this database for more than three years.  

Now journalists from Coronado, CA to Danbury, CT are busily breaking stories of which hospitals in their regions got into trouble, sparing no details. And healthcare providers' media reps and their bosses are scrambling to explain how they've revised their procedures so such events never happen again.

See Also: CMS Unveils Hospital Violations Database

"Everybody benefits from this information because for far too long we've operated under a culture that was more paternalistic about healthcare information, that certain people were entitled to have it and certain people were not, and if you wanted it, you had to jump through hoops to get it," said Charles Ornstein, AHCJ president who fought hard to get CMS to focus on a collaboration.

This new transparency is a long time coming, indicative of a new culture of disclosure that I, a member of AHCJ, am delighted to see.


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