Ohio Steps Backward On Transparency

Paul Levy

Posted 10/31/11 on Not Running a Hospital

After expressing enthusiastic support for many quality initiatives by hospitals in Ohio, I must report with disappointment an action by their trade association to dismantle the state’s hospital transparency website.  This article summarizes:

The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) is backing a piece of recently introduced legislation that would free hospitals from the requirement to report performance data such as measures of heart and surgical care, infection rates and patient satisfaction.

The reason?  Alleged duplication of effort with the CMS Hospital Compare website.  According to an OHA spokesperson:

The time and effort spent on reporting the data to the state as well as the federal government reduces the resources Ohio hospitals can devote to patient care.

To which I reply, “Bull twaddle!” (This is a family blog, or I would use stronger terms.)

First, let’s acknowledge that the data presented in the the CMS siteis old, very old.  It accomplishes little or nothing with regard to transparency.  As I have noted:

While you cannot manage what you do not measure, trying to manage with data that are a year or two or more older is like trying to drive viewing the road through a rearview mirror. The principles of Lean process improvement and other such systems suggest that real time “visual cues” of how the organization is doing are essential. Why? Because that kind of data is indicative of the state of the organization right now, not what existed months or years ago.

Second, let’s be real about the amount of time this state-run site “takes away” from delivering patient care.  This data would be collected regularly by hospitals, as part of delivering patient care, even if there were no federal or state reporting requirements.  It is not an incremental responsibility.

Next, the Ohio Department of Health says:  “It was an unfunded mandate for ODH to collect the information and make it public.”

To which, I can only repeat the above, “Bull twaddle!”

Since when does a state agency get to complain about unfunded mandates from the legislature that supervises it?  (You only get to complain about unfunded mandates if a higher level of government imposes a cost on a lower level of government.)  The staff of the agency get funded every day they work there.  This is a matter of priorities.  In any event, this is a gross overstatement of the amount of effort needed for this task.

I am willing to bet that a graduate student or health care club at OSU, Case Western, or one of the other fine schools in Ohio would gladly set up and maintain a voluntary website for the Ohio hospitals.  Each hospital could enter through a password-protected portal to enter real-time data about the metrics that are of value in pursuing important quality and safety goals.  At virtually no cost.  It would take seconds, not even minutes or hours, to enter it once a month or once a quarter.  As I havenoted:

Such data are collected in hospitals on a current basis. If their main purpose is to support process improvement, they do not need external validation or auditing to be made transparent in real time.

Come on, Ohio.  Don’t step backward.

Paul Levy is the former CEO of a large Boston hospital. He writes at Not Running a Hospital.

One thought on “Ohio Steps Backward On Transparency

  1. Good article. And HHS/CMS is wrongly misleading the public to believe that M’care data is somehow representative of the commercial population. So when is HHS/CMS going to cease this propaganda ? When are employers (who pay for ALL healthcare directly or indirectly) going to be placed in the leadership role ? And when are providers and insurers going to cease their efforts to impede transparency at the cost — in dollars and lives– of consumers ?

    Mike Cadger, CEO
    Monocle Health Data, THE Healthcare Price & Quality Transparency Solution for Employers and Providers
    404 630 8980

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