Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

March 09, 2012

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


Public Reporting on Quality and Costs


Bethesda, MD -- A new policy brief from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation discusses public reporting of the quality and cost performance of doctors and other practitioners, hospitals, and health systems. The brief explains the ideas behind public reporting--sometimes known as issuance of "report cards"--and examines the evidence as to whether public reporting actually improves care and reduces costs. It is being released in conjunction with a group of articles about public reporting in the March 2012 issue of Health Affairs.


The policy brief covers the following:


  • The theory and evolution of public reporting. The brief details how the then-named Health Care Financing Administration, the precursor of today's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, first began publishing hospital death rate statistics in the 1980s to shed light on large variations in the quality of care provided by these institutions. The goal was two-fold: to prompt consumers to "shop" for the highest quality hospitals and to prompt the institutions themselves to change. Many hospitals complained that the information may have been misleading, and that particular effort was eventually scuttled. The concept gained acceptability as the measures of providers' performance were refined. Today, governments at all levels, hospitals, health insurance plans, and consumers all use public reports, but with varying degrees of effectiveness.

  • Does public reporting lead to quality improvement and lower costs? Although public reporting is a popular concept, the evidence about its effectiveness is mixed, as detailed by several of the papers in the March 2012 issue of Health Affairs. The brief details the ongoing efforts to improve the collection and reporting of data and the ways in which professionals are making the reports more user-friendly and relevant for consumers.

  • The role of the federal government. Two federal agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services are involved with public reporting. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) supports research about the methodology, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services collects data on its participant providers. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires stakeholders to develop new performance measures that can be used by patients with chronic conditions and publicly posted on the Internet. In addition, AHRQ convened a national summit on public reporting in 2011, which was instrumental in identifying what was working and what areas needed improving.
About Health Affairs

Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published periodically and health policy briefs published twice monthly at Read daily perspectives on Health Affairs Blog. Download weekly Narrative Matters podcasts on iTunes.