Transparency in Healthcare: Reality Not a Fad

While most Americans haven’t felt the effects of the Affordable Care Act that became law on March 23, 2010, the healthcare industry in the U.S. certainly has. 

You can already see dramatic changes taking place as a result of better public reporting of cost comparisons and quality measurement practices.  This is all under the premise of a higher level of “transparency” in reporting by healthcare professionals and hospitals alike.

While certain organizations have already begun to embrace the idea of sharing internal quality reporting data with the general public, it doesn’t take too many online searches to realize that this is not simply a passing fad but a growing reality. 

Bold, sweeping statements have become the norm.  On the Department of Health and Human Services website a standing quote by HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt remains a fixed navigation piece.  He states “Every American should have access to a full range of information about the quality and cost of their health care options.”

As the site further explains, “Providing reliable cost and quality information empowers consumer choice.  Consumer choice creates incentives at all levels, and motivates the entire system to provide better care for less money.  Improvements will come as providers see how their practice compares to others.”

In speaking with leadership at a handful of hospitals who have launched online quality score initiatives, I’m finding that hearts are in the right place.  Some consistent findings have become clear:

– These efforts are being very well-received both within these hospitals and their local communities.

– Early adopters of this newfound transparency are not using it as a marketing tool.  The approach has been that “it’s simply the right thing to do.”

-With previously internal records becoming public, hospital quality and safe patient care are now even more of an institutional priority for these organizations.

-One common early effect that this program has created is positive competition within hospital medical staffs to have the very best scores… the ripple effect has reached nurses and physicians.

 Consumers are already seeing a huge increase in the amount of publicly shared data from hospitals about quality scores and programs that weren’t offered previously.  Importantly, thus far it has been all about doing the right thing and creating a culture of public safety.  Now, the debate can be made as to whether these are self-driven acts of altruism versus government forced practices but the benefit remains the same:  Consumers will be given the information necessary to make better informed decisions about their healthcare and the care of their loved ones.

That can’t be all bad, now can it?  Let us know what you think.

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