Why hospitals need standards for reporting quality measures: 5 thoughts from Dr. Peter Pronovost and colleagues

Physicians and healthcare organizations should follow an agreed upon set of standards for publicly reporting quality data that is enforced by an outside entity, according to an op-ed published in JAMA.

Peter Pronovost, MD, senior vice president with Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Medicine and director of the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality, wrote the piece with two colleagues: Albert Wu, MD, MPH, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Matthew Austin, PhD, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

In the article, the authors outlined the current state of quality reporting and offered a solution to improve the process.

Here are five takeaways from the article.

  1. No reporting standards currently exist for hospitals sharing their own quality data. Hospitals and physicians do not need to abide by any reporting standards when posting performance data on their websites, which can lead to misinformation, according to the authors. "[T]here are no agreed upon standards for what information should be reported, its accuracy, and the underlying data that support it," they wrote. "All these are needed to allow the public to determine whether the measure and data are truthful, timely, and transparent."

  1. Hospitals have an incentive to emphasize data showing high-quality care. Healthcare organizations and physicians often use their data to highlight the high quality care they provide. While consumers view these entities as a trustworthy resource, some healthcare providers post misleading or inaccurate claims about their quality data. "Many of these efforts appear to be led by marketing departments that are not aware of appropriate scientific standards," the authors wrote in the article. "This has the consequence of diminishing the scientific rigor of claims and enhancing the risk of inaccurate inferences."

  1. Hospitals and physicians should self-attest whether they meet a set of standards when sharing quality data, the authors said. Standards could include additional information about the patient population, the quality measure and how performance is defined. An external entity could also communicate which hospitals or physicians do not comply with the standards and encourage consumers to be cautious when interpreting their quality measures.

  2. Healthcare providers should also conduct an independent audit on their quality measures, which could help catch any data errors and ensure the accuracy of reported quality measures, the authors said.

  3. Implementing the proposed system of reporting standards poses numerous challenges. The authors acknowledged more research and work must be done before enacting such a system. Healthcare organizations and stakeholders would need to offer more input "to refine the standards and ensure they gain broader acceptance," according to the article. Further evaluation would also be required to assess how the implementation of these standards and the auditing process would burden organizations.

To view the full article, along with a table of suggested reporting standards, click here.

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