CMS Administrator Thomas Scully is not pleased with the number of hospitals providing public quality data on a new Web site, unveiled today.
The National Voluntary Hospital Reporting Initiative, launched in December 2002, is part of the CMS Hospital Quality Initiative. More than 1,700 of 4,100 eligible hospitals have pledged to publicly report their performance on 10 standardized measures related to a "starter set" of three medical conditions: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.
But as of today, data is available online for just 415 facilities that have reported at least one measure for at least one condition.
CMS is grateful for the leadership and work of the American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals and the Association of American Medical Colleges, and for those hospitals that are beginning to report, Scully says in a statement on the site.
"However, we are extremely disappointed at the level of participation by hospitals so far," Scully says. "We appreciate the cooperative, voluntary-basis approach to this issue, but unless participation increases significantly and soon, we will have to consider Plan B."
The agency will make more staff available to help the partner associations and others speed up recruitment for the initiative, says Barbara Paul, M.D., director of the quality measurement and health assessment group.
"As CMS, everyone knows what we have in our hip pocket," Paul says. "Mr. Scully indicated yesterday that if he doesn't see real, significant improvement, he will sit down with the secretary and discuss whether a voluntary approach really is appropriate."
Paul says it is understandable that Scully is dismayed because 3,400 hospitals could have pledged and reported information on the site without taking any new steps for data submission or chart extraction.
Many who pledged to participate in the first round either did not meet the July cutoff date for transferring information to the data warehouse or ran into other technical problems, says Sarah Van Gelder, FAH senior vice president for strategic policy.
Increasing the number of hospitals participating and the completeness of the data they report are top priorities as the project moves forward, says Jennifer Faerberg, healthcare quality liaison for AAMC. Those hospitals that have pledged to report represent about 43% of the nation's acute care beds and 46% of hospital admissions, says Nancy Foster, senior associate director of policy at AHA.
The Web site that went live today is designed for clinicians and physicians, although the long-term goal of the project is to provide consumers with meaningful, useful information on hospital quality.
"Physicians and hospitals by and large have this kind of information already and are working to address systems issues to get their (performance) numbers up," Paul says. "Physicians and boards of trustees and other leadership of hospitals are very proud of the care they provide. The current site is just another stimulus for them to know they're addressing the systems issues they have to."