(Story updated at 7 p.m. ET with comment from the American Hospital Association.)
The Association of Health Care Journalists has launched a public website it says contains thousands of hospital patient-safety incident reports gathered by the CMS since January 2011.
The website, www.hospitalinspections.org
, hosts copies of Form CMS-2567, Statement of Deficiencies and Plan of Correction, which is used by hospitals to report patient-safety incidents. It is searchable by state, by hospitals within states, and by specific search terms such as the type of patient-safety event, for example, “medication error.”
The “vast majority of the survey reports” in the database were from so-called “focused surveys” conducted by state survey agencies responding to serious complaints made by patients or staff or others, according to a set of questions and answers supplied by the CMS
The release of the safety-incident reports “follows years of advocacy by AHCJ urging the government to release the deficiency reports in an electronic format,” the association said in a news release
According to AHCJ, prior to the release of the reports by the CMS, reporters and members of the public had to file Freedom of Information Act requests with the CMS to obtain the information, typically a time-consuming process.
“Being able to easily review the performance of your local hospital is vital for healthcare journalists and for the public,” said AHCJ President Charles Ornstein, a senior reporter at ProPublica, in the statement.
Absent from the database are routine inspection reports or reports from psychiatric or long-term care hospitals.
Also missing from the database, because they were not released by the CMS, are the “plans of correction” submitted by the hospitals in response to the deficiency reports. These can be obtained by the public via request to the specific hospital or to the CMS, according to the association.
The CMS has not yet set up the infrastructure by which it can publicly release in an electronic database form hospitals' plans of correction to the Form 2567s, Ornstein said. Still, even though incomplete, “I think hospitals and those in the regulatory community can learn from studying this information,” he said.
According to a CMS statement, “efforts to make plans of correction available in a national, searchable electronic database are suspended indefinitely until there is more clarity with respect to the federal budget. Development of such capability requires a multiyear effort and design safeguards that can adequately maintain security in a system that imports data from thousands of external parties.”
The reports are a mixed blessing, noting the absence of the hospitals' plans of correction in the data release, according to the American Hospital Association.
“Providing useful information for consumers is a good thing,” an e-mailed AHA statement said. “Unfortunately hospitalinspections.org only tells consumers part of the story. What's missing is information on what steps the hospitals took to address the findings of the inspection.”