Readmissions' other deterrent: Bad press

It's the front-page headline no hospital executive ever wants to read: "Barnes-Jewish faces cut in pay."

As the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is releasing public data on 84 quality measures, reporters are jumping on the wealth of knowledge and publicizing how poorly hospitals are doing, HealthLeaders Media reported.

Because of the number of measures, with more expected in the next two years, hospitals will not only have to deal with Medicare penalties associated with poor performance but also the bad press that goes along with it.

"I think few hospitals will not have something that doesn't look good on their report card," John Lynch, chief medical officer of Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, told HealthLeaders. "There may be some straight A students out there, but because the breadth of the type of things they're reporting on, probably everybody--many, many of your CEOs and other hospital leaders--are going to face this issue."

The hospital worked with the press, offering interviews and even allowed a reporter to follow a nurse manager into a discharged patient's home. You can't explain the data away, Lynch said, but you can turn it into an opportunity to make it about continuous improvement.

Below-average data doesn't necessarily mean poorer quality, considering that the biggest names in healthcare also are on those worst-of lists, according to Gordon Hospital's Chief Medical Officer Max Parrott. The Calhoun, Ga., community hospital was the subject of recent article, titled "Gordon Hospital below average for readmission rates."

"It's hard commenting on quality of care, when you look and see that Johns Hopkins and all these other places that had scores that were less than stellar; well I can promise you get pretty good care there, but the data is the data," Parrott said.

The CMO said hospitals can expect more scrutiny with more information, which could help patients in the long run.

"There is going to be more and more data of this kind coming out to patients to help make healthcare decisions, and I hope that data is clear enough for them to make the right decisions," said Parrott.

For more information:
- read the HealthLeaders article
- see the Calhoun Times article

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