Standards for Improved Healthcare Transparency Needed

An independent organization and additional funding may improve healthcare transparency.

A lack of standards for transparent measures of healthcare quality may skew information and promote misinformation to consumers, a recent study found.

Many government organizations and independent companies have been working towards increasing healthcare transparency regarding quality of care, and even costs. The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) even recently published quality ratings of hospitals in the country to ensure patients are receiving adequate care.

However, the ratings received much scrutiny, especially from the hospitals themselves, claiming that the ratings were inaccurate or measured obsolete features. Improved and consistent reporting standards may be able to better inform potential consumers, rather than confuse them.

It may also allow a more beneficial classification of the quality of care provided, according to the study published as a part of the National Academies of Sciences’ Vital Directions for Health Care paper collection.

“For over 2 decades, health care stakeholders have agreed that transparency in our industry is essential,” said study author Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD. “However, now is the time to improve and make systems more robust to ensure measurements are accurate. Besides, value-based payments require valid and reliable measures to function appropriately.”

The use of performance measures and rating systems are heavily relied upon to provide insight into products before we buy them, such as a new phone. It can also be used to determine how the healthcare received at a specific hospital or physician’s office compares with others.

These ratings can also reveal hospitals’ shortcomings, but may not be able to accurately gauge safety, according to the study. Conflicting scores from multiple rating systems may not provide consumers with the information they seek.

In the study, investigators discuss challenges that occur when attempting to create reliable and valid performance measures, such as the multi-step process of measuring and reporting healthcare quality. Other challenges include a lack of funding, and multiple entities are involved in ensuring the validity of the process.

Investigators created a set of recommendations that policymakers and healthcare officials may consider implementing in order to improve transparency. Creating an independent organization to create standards for performance measures and data utilization could improve the quality of the information used to calculate healthcare quality, according to the study.

The investigators also recommend that policymakers encourage additional funding for researching the science of performance measures, along with continuing the existing efforts from the CMS. Collaboration between multiple government agencies could also improve funding for furthering the science of performance measures, the study noted.

Additionally, funding can also improve how the data is conveyed to patients.

“Better standards for performance measures are needed,” said study author J. Matthew Austin, PhD. “Our goal is to alert policymakers of this important topic so these measures can lead to higher quality and lower costs to better serve our patients.”