CMS: Healthcare Accrediting Agencies Don’t Need to Make Inspection Reports Public

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently withdrew a proposal that would have required healthcare accreditors to publicly publish deficiencies found in hospitals and other healthcare settings. In April, CMS proposed through draft regulations that accreditors, such as the Joint Commission, should make inspection results public, showing problems such as errors, mishaps, and mix-ups as well as corrective actions facilities are taking.

When CMS originally released the proposal, it said it was doing so because state regulators were finding serious deficiencies when they conducted their own inspections right after the outside inspectors did theirs.

“In 2014, for instance, state officials examined 103 acute-care hospitals that had been reviewed by an accreditor in the past 60 days. The state officials found 41 serious deficiencies. Of those, 39 were missed by the accrediting organizations,” according to a ProPublica article from April.

CMS said that this disparity “raises serious concerns regarding the [accrediting organizations’] ability to appropriately identify and cite health and safety deficiencies” during inspections, CMS noted in the draft regulation, posted in the Federal Register.

However, in a fact sheet released when CMS announced the reversal, CMS said: “However, we believe further review, consideration, and refinement of this proposal is necessary to ensure that CMS establishes requirements, consistent with our statutory authority, that will inform patients and continue to support high quality care.”

Healthcare stakeholders were split on their reactions to CMS’ change of heart. Accreditors, including the Joint Commission and the Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality, were opposed to CMS’ original proposal.

In a statement to ProPublica, the Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality said that “Knowing that survey [inspection] reports are public knowledge will only incentivize hospitals and other healthcare entities to go back to the days of ‘hiding’ quality of care issues from accreditors, rather than working with us to improve the quality and safety of care rendered to patients.”

Consumer agencies such as the Consumers Union and the Leapfrog Group supported the proposal and decried CMS’ decision to reverse its stance.

“This is disgraceful, unfair to patients as well as employers and other purchasers of health care,” Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group, told ProPublica. “The public deserves full transparency on how the health care industry performs. Instead, transparency has been sacrificed to accommodate special interests that lobby to avoid disclosing embarrassing information about health care quality.”

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

1 Comment

  1. We agree with Leah Binder’s comment that CMS’ decision is disgraceful. Our employer members rely on the quality and accuracy of hospital accreditation organizations’ inspection reports. Shame on CMS for backing off on its quest for high quality health care. by allowing hospitals to cover up medical errors, mishaps and mix-ups. This certainly does not serve the public interest.

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