Hospitals report data with Medicare financial incentives

Nearly all of the nation's eligible hospitals have begun reporting data on the quality of care they deliver, a first step to improving patient care, with the carrot of financial incentives, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said.

'Making information available on care delivered provides people with the tools necessary to make decisions on where to go for their health care,' said Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson yesterday. CMS is an agency of the Health and Human Services Department.

CMS asks hospitals, nursing homes and home health-care agencies to provide information on the care they deliver and make it publicly available. The Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 provided a financial incentive for hospitals to report quality of care data by linking it to the payments they will receive for treating Medicare patients. Almost 100 percent of covered hospitals reported data by the Aug. 15 deadline.

'As patients and doctors start using this quality information to help them make decisions about hospital care, hospitals will start using it to improve their performance,' said CMS Administrator Dr. Mark McClellan. Under Medicare reform, hospitals that submit quality information to CMS will be eligible to receive the full Medicare payment for health care services in 2005. Although reporting is voluntary, those inpatient acute care hospitals that do not report will get a 0.4 percentage point reduction in their annual Medicare fee schedule update.

Beginning early in 2005, the hospital quality data will be available to consumers at www.medicare.gov. CMS already publishes quality information for Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing homes and Medicare-certified home health agencies at the site.

The data on quality of care that the hospitals report will give consumers information about performance in three medical conditions - heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. The quality data is reported as 10 quality measures, or standards of care, for these three conditions.

Next year, CMS anticipates gathering and displaying additional measures of clinical quality as well as measures related to patient satisfaction with the care they received. There are no payment incentives currently associated with these additional measures.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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