The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) provides numeric data on healthcare-associated infections to help consumers choose hospitals. A new study published online in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology has suggested that patients have difficulty deciphering this complex numeric data provided on the website.
Lead author Max Masnick, University of Maryland School of Medicine, said, "Healthcare has made great strides to engage individuals to take a more active role in their care through the public reporting of data. However, presenting healthcare-acquired infection data is difficult. We found that the current way public HAI data are communicated is confusing for consumers who are trying to make informed decisions on their care."
The collection and publication of hospital-acquired infection (HAI) data are a key element of the Affordable Care Act and other recent healthcare reform legislation as part of an effort to improve care by having consumers make informed choices. These data are made available to the public via the CMS Hospital Compare website.
When given only written descriptions of the HAI prevalence in two hospitals, nearly three in 10 participants (28%) were unable to accurately identify the better hospital. When participants were given both written descriptions and numeric data together, as presented on the CMS website, comprehension worsened, with 40% unable to correctly identify the better hospital. The authors note that based on these findings, members of the general public may reach incorrect conclusions when comparing hospitals using the current HAI reporting format.
Masnick said, "HAI data are made accessible to the public to help improve hospital quality and increase transparency among healthcare systems. We need more effective ways to communicate this information. We are working on ways CMS could improve their website."