Publishing mortality rates doesn't improve outcomes

Healthcare leaders have put considerable stock in transparency as a method of improving patient outcomes. However, publicizing hospitals' mortality rates doesn't move the needle on care outcomes, according to a new study published in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data publicly reported by hospitals on their care processes for one or more condition under the Hospital Compare program. This criterion encompassed about 85 percent of acute care hospitals nationwide. The research team next used inpatient hospitalization files for fee-for-service Medicare patients to determine the average difference in mortality rates between January 2005, when the program began, and November 2012 for three common conditions: congestive heart failure, pneumonia and acute myocardial infarction.

Based on their analysis, they found no improvement in 30-day mortality rates even as the program took hold. Changes in mortality rates, they wrote, suggest public reporting may in fact have slowed the ongoing drop in mortality rates among Medicare beneficiaries rather than improved them. The researchers also suggested any benefit to public reporting programs may take longer to manifest within the outcomes data, necessitating further study down the line. The administrative data may not be suited to accurately reflect ongoing changes in the complexity of patients' conditions, they add.

The study follows research earlier in the month that found along with outcome transparency, price transparency may not have the desired effect either; an online cost calculator offered by Truven Health Analytics had no effect on healthcare spending. The results were similar when controlling for patients with higher deductibles, FierceHealthFinance previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract