Hospital Inspections May Soon Become Public Information
We often see restaurants admonished in the newspapers when they fail a health inspection. These health inspections are made public in order to protect the consumers from eating at a restaurant that is not safe. Shouldn’t that same information be made public when a hospital fails a health inspection? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) apparently believe that the public has a “right to know” when it comes to unsafe hospitals. CMS, along with the Safe Patient Project and other patients advocacy groups are hoping public inspection records may be an opportunity for change because the information doesn’t really inform consumers about a hospital’s track record on most quality control measures.
CMS wants to require that private health care accreditors publicly detail problems they find during inspections of hospitals and other medical facilities, as well as the steps being taken to fix them. Nearly nine in 10 hospitals are directly overseen by those accreditors, not the government. These private health care facilities are not required to release any information dealing with their inspections. In a 2016 report, CMS noted that its review found that accrediting organizations often missed serious deficiencies found soon after by state inspectors. In 2014, for instance, state officials examined 103 acute-care hospitals that had been reviewed by an accreditor in the past 60 days. The state officials found 41 serious deficiencies. Of those, 39 were missed by the accrediting organizations.
Government inspection reports, on the other hand, offer a description—often detailed—of what went wrong. This includes medication errors, operations on the wrong patient or the wrong body part, and patient abuse. To qualify for federal funding, health facilities have to meet minimum requirements, known as Medicare conditions of participation. If a health facility has problems and doesn't fix them, it stands to lose its Medicare funding. Though this rarely happens, it can be crippling for a medical institution.
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