Hospital groups can take lead on data-reporting problems

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Amid a widely-demanded delay of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' latest round of star ratings for hospitals, the ball is in hospitals' court to improve many of the problems the industry sees with the rating methodology, argues a blog post from Health Affairs.

For example, writes care quality expert Michael Millenson, the American Hospital Association (AHA) has stressed the importance of reliable data for consumers. However, hospitals' underreporting of data is a major obstacle to this objective, Millenson writes. Hospital leaders can improve by applying the same standards it applies to the star-rating methodology to member hospitals' data submission, he adds.

Hospitals also have considerable work to do on data timeliness, Millenson writes. Data on Medicare's Hospital Compare site is usually at least a year old. The problem is even worse at the individual state level, with the most recent New York public report on heart surgery mortality ending with 2012 data. To counter the problem, hospital associations should call on their members to submit data as soon as it's internally available. Meanwhile the AHA and the three other groups that called for the ratings delay--the Association of American Medical Colleges, America's Essential Hospitals, and the Federation of American Hospitals--should call on Congress to provide additional funding for claims data processing. Hospital advocacy groups at the state level should push for similar programs.

The commentary does not address one of the most common complaints about CMS' methodology, its failure to incorporate to socioeconomic and demographic data. In a webinar last week, CMS representatives said they are conducting research on risk adjustment for such factors.     

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