Hospital inspection data could be (and should be) made public

Friday April 21, 2017

Private accreditors doing poor job as watchdogs 

A federal agency wants to require private health care accreditors to make their inspection reports public. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services believes that citizens have a right to know about errors and safety lapses at their local hospitals. CMS also contends that private inspections are only catching a fraction of serious medical deficiencies.

CMS already publishes government inspection reports on nursing homes and some hospitals, This helps consumers make choices about care facilities and medical procedures. But 90 percent of hospitals are overseen by private accreditors, which do not share their findings. Do you agree these records should be public?

Medical errors and hospital deficiencies would be viewable online

Each year, the CMS spot-checks a sample of hospitals and clinics accredited by private bodies. Those accreditors frequently miss deficiencies that could endanger patients. In 2014, state inspectors examined 103 hospitals on the heels of private accreditors. Of 41 serious deficiencies identified by state officials, the private inspectors missed 39!

The proposal would require private health care accreditors to:

  • Detail medical errors and mix-ups uncovered in their inspections
  • List steps that the medical facility is taking to address the problems

Past CMS efforts led to Nursing Home Inspect, a publicly accessible website which lists deficiencies, fines and suspensions of elder care facilities in all 50 states. CMS would like to see a similar searchable database for accredited hospitals, surgery centers, hospices and home health providers.

This is a win-win for patient rights

Medical errors such as botched surgeries and medication mistakes are a leading cause of injuries and deaths at hospitals. Yet medical malpractice lawsuits are difficult to win because the standard for negligence is high and because hospitals tend to be cagey about reporting errors. Publishing the inspection reports would hold hospitals accountable and also force private accreditors to step up their game in identifying deficiencies.

Source: Secret Data on Hospital Inspections May Soon Become Public (NPR)

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