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Topic: Assessing and Publicizing Hospital Performance

Administrators of hospitals in Missouri and all other states across the country that receive public dollars are unquestionably focused on the federal “Hospital Compare” website and the list of medical facilities nationally that have been deemed comparatively problematic.

“Problematic” in this instance means that, when compared with other hospitals, a particular medical facility has what is considered a troublingly high rate of patient-related complications that are preventable.

Government safety regulators have been strongly focused on hospitals’ performance for some time now, with the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act seeking to guard taxpayer outlays by penalizing poorly performing providers caring for patients on Medicare and Medicaid.

Public funds pay for the medical services rendered patients eligible to participate in these programs, and there has long been a concern with waste, fraud and, in some instances, the delivery of shoddy care provided these persons. The relatively new legislation seeks to remedy these problems by penalizing facilities with poor documented performance and then listing them on a public website that would-be medical care consumers are encouraged to use.

As noted in a recent online review of problem hospitals’ high rates for preventable complications, the barometers for assessing performance largely track various facility-acquired infections suffered by patients. A number of other factors — such as hip fractures and sepsis following surgery — are also considered.

The Hospital Compare site provides performance information and ratings on hospitals across the country. Information on more than 100 Missouri facilities appears on the site.

There are both supporters and critics of the newly released data. The transparency related to performance is applauded by some commentators, with others pointing to stated shortcomings, including an alleged lack of accurate information on so-called “never events.”

Those are patient outcomes that are deemed especially egregious and that would never occur absent clear medical negligence. Examples are instruments left inside patients following surgery and operating on the wrong patient or body part.