Rhode Island's hospitals have decided to invite the public to inspect the previously confidential results of their accreditation surveys.
And the Hospital Association of Rhode Island, which sponsored and helped shape the voluntary disclosure policy, said it would propose legislation to make the procedure mandatory across the state.
The hospital association is taking a cue from federal health reform's emphasis on informed choice by patients. "The public will soon be asked to make personal healthcare decisions based on performance data such as that contained in|.|.|.|hospital accreditation surveys," said Gerald G. McClure, the association's president.
The hospital policy, unanimously approved by a board representing the state's 13 hospitals and three public chronic-care facilities, is "the first step of the patient education process on quality," said association spokeswoman Eileen O'Gara-Kurtis.
Hospitals have always been free to disclose their survey results, said Stephen Davidow, a spokesman for the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. But by contract the commission couldn't release that information. Starting this year, surveyed hospitals will have to permit disclosure by the Joint Commission if a request is made (Oct. 25, 1993, p. 59).
In Rhode Island, survey results are filed with the state Department of Health as the basis of licensure. By law they were kept confidential unless the health department decided a problem was so glaring that the public should be alerted, Ms. O'Gara-Kurtis said. That's never happened, she said.
The association plans to ask state legislators not only to lift the confidentiality of accreditation results but to require hospitals to disclose those results.
Under the association's program, the hospitals agreed to schedule an appointment for anyone wanting to see the report. A qualified staffer will go over the results and take questions on the accreditation decision, the scoring grid that groups standards into key performance areas and the subsequent reports on steps taken to correct problems, the association said.