In the eye-opening story headlined "Consumers snub quality data-survey" (Nov. 4, 1996, p. 6), it's asserted that the American public is not making use of quality data collected by the healthcare industry. Interestingly, a recent study on which a member of our faculty collaborated points to a different conclusion.
The results are outlined in a paper titled Involuntary Benchmarking and Quality Improvement: The Effect of Mandated Public Disclosure on Hospitals, co-authored by Karen Shastri, an associate professor of accounting and public policy at Carnegie Mellon. The paper documents the overwhelmingly positive responses of Pennsylvania hospitals between 1990 and 1992 to the public dissemination by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council of mandated disclosures of financial and nonfinancial performance information.
In conducting the study, Shastri and her colleagues found that public disclosure of mortality rates saves lives. According to their analysis, those hospitals that in 1990 performed poorly on quality of patient care-or "effectiveness of care" as measured by mortality outcomes-made significant improvements in the two-year period after the disclosure. The authors also found that market share increased for those hospitals that improved their performance during the period. Those that failed to show improvement lost market share. These findings suggest that market pressures drive quality initiatives.
Director of public relations and development
Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh