Richard Umbdenstock, the American Hospital Association's incoming chief executive, named two priorities for U.S. hospitals as momentum builds behind curbing medical errors and increased transparency in pricing. First: Identify a universal list of quality measures to prevent a quagmire of data and reporting requirements that would only add to hospitals' regulatory and administrative burden, he says. Second: figure out how hospitals should be reimbursed for investing in prevention and quality improvement. Umbdenstock, 56, an association insider and former health system chief executive, was tapped in April to succeed long-tenured Richard Davidson as AHA president effective January 2007. For Umbdenstock, the association's issues amid a changing market are practical but complex. Increasingly, consumers, insurers and public policymakers are using whatever leverage they have to pry more information from hospitals on quality and pricing. "What I think," he says, "is it's not exclusively hospitals' fault." Healthcare's "byzantine" pricing formulas and codes evolved between insurers and providers and reflect healthcare's history of shifting costs among payers, he says. Patients typically pay premiums, not bills. Now that's
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