AHCJ has updated its hospitalInspections.org website and the downloadable version of the data to include reports through June.
Obtained from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the database includes reports about deficiencies cited during complaint inspections at acute-care and critical access hospitals throughout the United States since Jan. 1, 2011. It does not include results of routine inspections or those of psychiatric hospitals or long-term care hospitals. It also does not include hospital responses to deficiencies cited during inspections.
The update added 919 records with inspection details, giving the database a total of 6,175 records. Some state health departments and CMS regional offices have lagged in uploading deficiency reports to the agency’s main database. CMS has identified the hospitals with missing reports, and they are labeled as such on hospitalinspections.org. CMS has committed to working with its regional offices and state counterparts to speed the uploading of inspection reports so that the public has access to this important information. The updated database includes 850 inspections lacking details.
AHCJ launched the free, searchable news application in March. The inspection reports have been configured by AHCJ to be easily searchable by keyword, city, state and hospital name. The website is open to anyone, but only AHCJ members have access to a downloadable version and additional resources to help users understand what is being reported and what is not. These caveats are important for putting the information into context.
Funding for the hospitalinspections.org project was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
Any reporter who has sought public records from the feds knows the practical nightmare that is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Delays of months, years and even decades before receiving requested documents or data are not uncommon.
Now, after years of negotiations with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Association of Health Care Journalists is offering both reporters and the general public instant online access to thousands of federal inspection reports for hospitals nationwide with a searchable news application at hospitalinspections.org.
AHCJ board president Charles Ornstein of ProPublica helped unveil the site at a Saturday morning news briefing in Boston.
“Until now, you weren’t able to see what [hospitals] were doing, because you had to request all these in PDF format, and compare them [individually],” he said. “Now, you can actually use the power of data to find examples, and write that story. Continue reading
The Association of Health Care Journalists has called upon The Joint Commission to make public its hospital accreditation surveys and complaint reports.
In a letter to the agency sent last week (PDF), AHCJ president Charles Ornstein noted that some consumers can obtain hospital inspection reports while others cannot, depending on where they live and which organization or regulator did the survey.
State licensing agencies and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services consider the results of their inspections to be public record. But the Joint Commission does not release details on inspections it performs.
“This peculiar patchwork system treats consumers unequally and leaves millions in the dark about the performance of their local hospitals,” Ornstein wrote to Joint Commission president Mark Chassin, M.D.
AHCJ’s letter follows an effort by a group of consumer organizations to change the law to make inspections public.
“I urge the commission to take the lead on this issue, and demonstrate your commitment to transparency, by voluntarily opening these records to the public,” Ornstein wrote.
The Joint Commission said it has received AHCJ’s letter and is reviewing it.