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CMS considers making hospital inspection outcomes public

By Thom Wellington
From the July 2017 issue of DOTmed HealthCare Business News magazine

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is threatening to make hospital inspection results by accreditation providers such as The Joint Commission, DNV, CIHQ and Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program public so that patients can see potential violations prior to choosing a hospital.

CMS submitted a survey and certification letter, dated April 16, 2017, announcing the intention to publish proposed changes that will require posting of provider/supplier survey reports and plans of corrections.

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CMS is stating that the accreditation agencies are not uncovering as many health care violations as government inspectors are finding. Therefore, publishing the inspection data is on the agenda from CMS and health care providers are lobbying hard to keep this from happening. To combat the initiative on the hospital front, accreditation agencies are stepping up with more aggressive inspections to compete with the government inspections. The goal now is to make sure accreditation agency inspections are as thorough and aggressive as state agency inspections. Hospitals are caught in the crosshairs and are now being squeezed by both state inspectors and their accreditation inspectors.

Currently, CMS inspection results are fairly difficult to obtain, requiring a trip to a CMS regional office or a state survey agency to inspect the documents. In addition, accreditation organizations are not required to make their survey reports and plans of correction available to the public.

Part of the emphasis is on making health care more transparent for consumers. CMS has leverage over hospitals by threatening to publicize inspection reports. Consumers are beginning to take a closer look at hospital performance when making a decision on where to have procedures performed. To slow down the CMS plan to make accreditation inspections and hospital correction plans public, hospitals are turning to lobbyists to build political roadblocks. Generally, hospitals do not want additional public scrutiny even though they are aggressively focusing on quality improvement initiatives.

Both government and private accreditation reports detail what went wrong in a hospital, but do not identify patients or specific staff members. The reports detail clinical, surgical and the overall environment among other focuses. CMS is intending to make “all” inspection information public, unlike current public disclosures by accreditation agencies. Currently, private agencies disclose limited information.
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