Hospital-Acquired Conditions Data to Be Released Soon

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will make data public on eight hospital-acquired conditions in the near future. This data can be found on the CMS website. The data will include mistakes that occur in hospitals, such as foreign objects being left in patients following surgery and the wrong type of blood being given to patients. These and other so-called “hospital-acquired conditions” can be life-threatening.

This data was mysteriously removed from the CMS website recently, which led to criticism by several consumer organizations that publish safety ratings for hospitals. There has been mounting pressure on government officials and hospitals to be more transparent about safety, so that patients considering certain types of surgeries can make more informed choices about the hospital where the surgery will be performed. For example, a patient who chooses to have an elective surgery, such as a hip replacement or knee replacement, can investigate the infection rates at the hospitals they are considering. This is important information because infections can lead to more serious conditions, such as sepsis or septic shock, which can be deadly.

Not surprisingly, many hospital officials around the country opposed this release of information reflecting hospital mistakes. The hospitals contend that some incidents, such as foreign objects being left in patients after surgery, do not happen enough for the information to be reliable. However, a USA Today report in 2013 concluded that foreign objects were retained after surgery as often as 6,000 times a year, which was far greater than the government had estimated. The retention of foreign objects after surgery can lead to infections and other complications that can, in turn, lead to additional surgeries.

Thankfully, CMS has seen the light and reversed its previous decision to stop publicly reporting these hospital mistakes, many of which can be life-altering if not life-threatening. While the data is not expected to be made public until late 2014, it is a positive step toward enabling patients to be better informed.