The "Pros and Cons" of Hospital Report Cards
Hospital report cards are steps in the right direction toward providing higher quality throughout the healthcare industry because the public sharing of data inherently fosters greater accountability.
In their current formats, however, it's important to be mindful that hospital report cards have significant limitations, including:
- They contain outdated data and measure a score at a point in time based on a set group of measures and questions.
- Many of them are based on financial records, as opposed to clinical or medical chart information.
- They attempt to risk-adjust but do so inadequately. Albany Medical Center, for example, often receives referrals of the most difficult cases from hospitals throughout the region. No current report card fully adjusts for all of the various risk factors associated with these higher-risk and more difficult-to-care-for patients.
- Report cards tend to reward organizations that are more diligent in their coding activities with higher quality scores when, in actuality, these institutions may simply be better record-keepers.
- Some of these report cards, such as HealthGrades, are commercial in nature and they actually make money by branding certain hospitals as "best" based on highly questionable and unpublished criteria and then by charging hospitals to use this brand in advertising.