- CMS, despite denying that it would make the change last year, has stopped disclosing eight avoidable hospital acquired conditions (HACs) on its publicly-accessible spreadsheet. The agency dropped the data from its hospital comparison site last summer.
- The spreadsheet still discloses 13 HACs, including infections such as MRSA and sepsis after surgery. The eight dropped HACs include high rates of air embolisms and foreign objects left in body cavities.
- The new measures were adopted in collaboration with the National Quality Forum, said CMS Aaron Albright. According to NQF spokeswoman Ann Grenier, the panel chose to drop the data measures because they weren't "appropriate for comparing one hospital to another."
Some patient advocates and the American Hospital Association disagree strongly on what level of HAC transparency is appropriate. According to CMS, the HACs that are no longer publicly available are rare events and therefore difficult to track. Patient advocates say that because these events should never happen in hospitals, it is even more important for patients to be aware of them; 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.
Meanwhile, CMS says it's working on refining how it measures common HACs. Per the ACA, the 25% of hospitals with the highest rate of certain HACs receive a 1% penalty on Medicare reimbursement. Look for upcoming changes in the near future. It's likely that if CMS is quietly removing certain quality measures, it's going to be announcing newer standards soon.