Data Release Could Help Benefits Decisions

December 13, 2002 ( - Benefits managers evaluating service delivery of their employee health-care plans will soon be armed with a bit more ammunition.

Expected to be published in mid-2003 will be data on basic standards of care at US hospitals, which won’t, however, specify a facility’s track record with a specific ailment such a stroke.

But industry officials insisted that the initial data release was important because it would lay the groundwork for a standardized, nationwide reporting system on hospital quality that is now nonexistent, Reuters reported.

HHS to Post Data

Under the voluntary plan, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will collect and post data on how hospitals treat patients with heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.  The data will not focus on survival rates but on how well hospitals follow ten basic points of care for patients with the three illnesses. For example, HHS will report on how often aspirin, a blood-thinning medication, is given to patients suffering from heart attacks.

It will also report on whether heart failure patients get an assessment of their heart functioning and whether pneumonia patients receive antibiotics in a timely fashion, according to Reuters.

The information will be posted on the Web site of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the HHS agency that regulates hospitals, officials said.

Most hospitals already collect such data and report it to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, a private group that certifies US hospitals. Under the new plan, hospitals will voluntarily allow the commission to report the data to CMS, Reuters said.

Hospitals have historically resisted efforts to make standardized quality information available to the public.

The 10 performance measures were taken from 31 developed by the National Quality Forum, a group of hospitals, insurers and healthcare consumer groups. Eventually the program is intended to grow to include more of the remaining 21 measures, officials said.