It’s our data that’s hurting us! – Transparency in a consumer-oriented healthcare marketplace

The Internet is really enabling the healthcare consumer to shop and compare like never before.  Why would there be a need to shop for the better hospital, doctor or nursing home? The need to shop for quality care has never been more important and the competition between hospitals and other healthcare providers is heating up.  The consumer wants the best surgeon to do their procedure, in the safest hospital and they are turning to healthcare rating sites in record numbers.  The irony of rating sites is that they are dependent on data that is provided by the hospitals, doctors and other allied providers – it is their very own data that they are being judged by.

Today, it is easy for the consumer to Google “compare doctors” or “compare hospitals” and locate numerous websites with detailed information for comparisons.  Two notable examples are leapfroggroup.com and ucomparehealthcare.com.  Leapfrog does not just rely on publicly reported data from regulatory agencies but extends the information with detailed surveys of hospitals on the key issues: central line infections and infection control, for example.  One comparison website reports that the Top 5% of its reporting hospitals have a 29% lower mortality rate.

No individual or healthcare organization wants an unfair report card.  With medical mistakes as a leading cause of death each year surpassing car accidents, breast cancer and AIDS, the report card also serves healthcare organizations as guidance on critical areas of improvement.  The process to collect regulatory reporting information in many healthcare organizations is tedious, time-consuming and often manual.  In the classic sense of “we have the data somewhere but not in the format that we need it.”  There are several key problems with collecting core measures and other key metrics for reporting:

  • Key data elements for the calculations are paper-based or manually compiled
  • Manual process fatigue from paper form processing
  •  Automated reporting systems use sample patient populations that are too small resulting in a possible statistical errors
  • Errors in the data transfer process, especially in the hand-off of information from one area of the hospital to another skew results
  • Inability to track a diagnosis code early enough in the patient encounter to improve on the measure outcomes
  • Lack of staff training on collecting the right information at the right time in the right format

Consumers use the reported results to compare hospital performance and make decisions about where to receive care.  As a result, healthcare organizations need to focus on data governance to address treating data as an asset, ensuring data quality and tracking the right key metrics.  Addressing this challenge will not only improve the ratings report card for healthcare organizations but will demonstrate the commitment to quality data as well as patient safety.  Better data equals better results.  In the consumer-oriented healthcare marketplace, transparency of key metrics will yield competitive advantage.

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