SHEA Issues Statement on Recent Efforts in Public Reporting of HAI Data

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) has issued the following statement:

Consumer Reports recent hospital rankings and article, "Teaching Hospitals Not Always Best for Patient Safety," provides a starting point for reviewing and comparing infection rates at hospitals throughout the country, but consumers should be aware of the reports limitations in providing an accurate comparison and ratings of hospitals.

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) appreciates and recognizes Consumer Reports attempt to compare patient safety and quality care of hospitals through publicly reported data on healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). However, the reports limitations could lead consumers to draw inaccurate conclusions about the quality of care in a given facility.

The information provided by Consumer Reports does not create an accurate comparative picture of HAI rates that does not take into account key elements of public reporting. Comparison like this should not be made between hospitals, but used rather to compare institutions rates to national averages. Additionally, use of publicly reported data should take into consideration complex factors of patient health status, differences in institutions based on type of facility, volume of patients and procedures, all of which may influence a facility's infection rate.

Buried in the methodology, the publisher of Consumer Reports agrees that comparisons must be done carefully, but the article does not reflect this caution. Instead, the article draws broad conclusions about the quality and safety of care throughout entire health systems based on one measurement gathered from a single unit in each hospital.

SHEA believes public reporting can be highly effective and lead to improved care for patients. Patients and consumers want clear and meaningful information on HAI rates to help inform their healthcare decisions.

Transparency in our healthcare system through public reporting is an important element in demonstrating to patients the commitment of our members and of all healthcare professionals in working toward eliminating preventable errors such as HAIs. At the same time, it is vital that such transparency is underpinned by a commitment to data collection and analysis that is scientifically sound, valid and useful.

SHEA and its members have a long-standing commitment to public reporting and the practical role that it plays in improving patient safety and patient care. We welcome partners including healthcare professionals, patients, consumer groups and legislators, in helping us move closer to our goal of eliminating HAIs. We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that any efforts toward reaching that goal are rooted in the best scientific knowledge in the field, consistent implementation of the practices that are proven to prevent infections and their spread, and lead to fair, balanced dialogue about performance improvement.

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