In recent years, perhaps in response to an uptick in inquiries about hospital performance and its effect on patient outcomes, a number of programs have been developed to help hospitals track how the patients they care for do. The most prominent of these is the American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP). This system allows hospitals to compare their performance relative to that of other participating hospitals and provides them with detailed descriptions of patient outcomes as adjusted for the patients’ risks.
Since 1994, the ACS NSQIP has been tracking data on 135 patient-related variables. As its name implies (Quality Improvement Program), the hope is that this will lead to improvements for patient care—having this information will hopefully motivate hospitals to improve their outcomes and reduce the payments charged to Medicare. However, there has not been a study examining whether this expectation has been met until now. The new study published in JAMA seems to indicate that a hospital’s participation in this outcomes/costs-tracking program does not directly lead to improved patient care or reduced Medicare costs.
Beating will continue until morale improves.