- In August, USA Today revealed that Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had quietly stopped disclosing eight avoidable hospital acquired conditions (HACs) on its publicly-accessible spreadsheet, despite denying that it would make the change last year. The federal agency has announced that it will reverse its decision and make the data public after all.
- "We are working to make it available as a public-use file for researchers and others who are interested in the data," CMS spokesman Aaron Albright told USA Today. "It's been requested, so we will make it available."
- The eight dropped HACs included high rates of air embolisms and foreign objects left in body cavities. The data is not expected to be made available again until later this year.
The eight HACs to be re-released will not be used on CMS' Hospital Compare site but will be used in other safety ratings, such as the non-profit Leapfrog Group's.
Still, this is likely not the end of the controversy over what information it is appropriate to make transparent: According to CMS, the removed HACs were rare events and therefore difficult to track reliably. But patient advocates argued that because these events should never happen in hospitals, it is even more important for patients to be aware of them. Meanwhile, according to the AHA, reporting unreliable information about mistakes doesn't benefit either hospitals or consumers.
"People deserve to know if the hospital down the street from them had a disastrous event and should be able to judge for themselves whether that's a reasonable indicator of the safety of that hospital," said Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group.