Who gains from hospital report cards?

This week, Leapfrog Group published the names of top hospitals based on its assessment of quality metrics. For what purpose?

No disrespect to the facilities selected in this and numerous other hospital report cards, but the motivation for these reports may have more to do with publicizing the organizations that conduct the analyses than informing the public about hospital quality. Leapfrog is one of a handful of groups that release an annual rating.

It is an efficient method for spreading a brand name in a positive light. Winners welcome the opportunity to publicize the honor—who wouldn’t—and often follow up with their own announcements and public messaging efforts.

Recently the Health Association of New York State (HANYS) assessed the quality of published report cards and concluded that half were poor. The report used a three-star scale. Leapfrog Hospital Safety Score, Truven Health Analytics 100 Top Hospitals, Healthgrades America’s Best Hospitals and Consumer Reports Hospital Safety Ratings each earned one star. U.S. New and World Report received a half star.

Government reports fared better. The Joint Commission Quality Check, Department of Health (DOH) Hospital-Acquired Infection Report, CMS Hospital Compare and DOH Hospital Profile Quality Section received three stars. Niagara Health Quality Coalition New York State Hospital Report Card earned two stars.

Some report creators argue that their analyses provide hospitals with insights on their performance. The HANYS authors also point out that some of these organizations use their reports as a marketing and revenue-generating tool. Truven, for instance, sells products to healthcare systems that may help their hospitals achieve higher scores in future rankings. Leapfrog requires hospitals to pay licensing fees to include its logo on marketing materials.

The hospital report cards use varied methodologies, some more rigorous than others. Certainly they require a great deal of work to produce and they do provide benchmarks for hospitals and their patients. But the ultimate beneficiaries may be the groups that make the reports.

Candace Stuart

Cardiovascular Business, editor