Massachusetts moves closer to mandated reporting of HAI (healthcare-associated infection, or hospital-acquired infection); $64,000 question is: how does reporting help?

The state released a report yesterday (press release with links to executive summary and full report on mandatory HAI reporting) as required under Chapter 58 (the Massachusetts universal health care law) that will likely lead to regulations requiring HAI reporting in the future. 

Consumers Union has been pushing the idea for a while nationally, and this is all of a piece with pushes towards transparency and consumer-directed healthcare generally.

While laudable, I have concerns about this sort of mandate.  As I wrote about five months ago in a post entitled Of drug-resistant staph infections, public reporting of infection rates, and the consumer-directedness of it all:

. . . I have the constant niggling feeling that some folks out there . . . want to dump the data in patients’ laps and then say: see, we gave you data and now you can decide which hospital to go to, and no sniveling if you pick up a superbug while you’re there.

. . .

Transparency is good, but not just for its own sake.  It’s worthwhile so long as information provided (1) is not distorted, (2) may be easily and accurately interpreted by consumers and (3) is actionable.

Here’s hoping that the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, its consultants, and the state’s hospitals can keep these concerns front and center as they proceed with refinement and implementation of these HAI reporting requirements and the related HAI reduction and prevention measures detailed in the report.

David Harlow 

Comments

  1. says

    Several things about transparency and hospital-acquired infections: A recent survey found that 93% of consumers understood the importance of infection rates and would use them when making health care choices – I think this is different than prior quality measures.
    Also – the infection reporting laws that Consumers Union has been pushing for require that hospital staff actually DO SOMETHING – they must look for these infections, identify them, and report them. It is not a passive activity and that, I believe, is the way public reporting will (has already) improve the safety of hospital care.