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Making sense of hospital quality reports

Michael RothbergThis spring marks 20 years since the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council became the first in the nation to report hospital mortality data that was intended for release to consumers. Back then hospitals said the data would be misleading and only confuse consumers. Today, many states – along with the federal government and numerous private organizations – regularly publish or put online report cards on hospitals. But journalists are often unclear about the potential biases and limitations the reports present.

A report in the December issue of Health Affairs found serious flaws in the public reporting of hospital quality data. In this Q&A, one of the authors, Michael Rothberg, M.D., M.P.H., a researcher at Tufts University in Boston, discusses the findings. AHCJ also offers a number of resources for reporters who are looking at hospital quality.

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