An ambitious project by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has been able to make the connection between public reporting and healthcare quality improvement in specific communities.
Organizations that rate doctors and hospitals want to believe that the public ratings, rankings, grades, and stars they issue help improve quality and safety as well as inform patients, but for the most part, those reports are mere snapshots in time and do not play a part in driving quality improvements inside the walls of a hospital.
"We love being recognized in the Top 100 hospitals," says Dan Varga, chief clinical officer and COO for Texas Health Resources, which has begun publishing its own quality and safety report for consumers and clinical staff.
"We love being recognized by The Joint Commission. We love having our Leapfrog scores rank up near the top in the [Dallas/Fort Worth] metroplex, etc., but it's not something we're sitting with our clinical leaders and saying, 'Okay, this is what we think the Leapfrog methodology is, or the Healthgrade's methodology is, let's try to get that fifth star this year.' "
An argument can be made that quality at hospitals is in fact rising because scorecards like Leapfrog's and The Joint Commission's Top Performer on Key Quality Measuresboth show gains in their individual indicators. But whether large-scale quality improvements can be directly linked to these national scorecards has yet to be demonstrated.
Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.