Study Shows Hospital Report Cards Unlikely to Spur Improvement

WEDNESDAY Nov. 18, 2009 -- One might assume that public report cards ranking their performance would encourage hospitals to improve, but a new Canadian study finds that isn't the case.

Researchers found that hospitals in the province of Ontario didn't do a better job of treating heart patients after report cards were released.

The findings, released online Nov. 18 in advance of publication in the Dec. 2 print issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, may come as a disappointment to those who have advocated the use of report cards as a strategy to improve how hospitals treat patients.

"Public release of hospital performance data is increasingly being mandated by policy makers with the goal of improving the quality of care," the study authors wrote. "Advocates of report cards believe that publicly releasing performance data on hospitals will stimulate hospitals and clinicians to engage in quality improvement activities and increase the accountability and transparency of the health care system."

On the other hand, they added, "critics argue that publicly released report cards may contain data that are misleading or inaccurate and may unfairly harm the reputations of hospitals and clinicians."

For the study, the researchers examined medical records from 86 hospitals in Ontario that admitted patients with heart attack or heart failure.

Even after report cards were released, the hospitals, in general, didn't show improvement, according to Dr. Jack V. Tu, of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, and colleagues.

"The process-of-care findings suggest that public release of hospital-specific performance data may not be a particularly effective systemwide intervention" for improving care for the two heart conditions, the authors concluded.

More information

Learn more about hospital report cards from Harvard Medical School.

Posted: November 2009


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