Transparency in healthcare reached a new level over the weekend when the Association of Healthcare Journalists (AHCJ) unveiled a searchable database of past Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) hospital deficiency reports, formally known as “Form 2567s.”  The database compiles information regarding approximately 8,000 serious patient safety infractions from roughly 1,000 U.S. hospitals in Form 2567s issued since January, 2011.  Previously, the public could only obtain the Form 2567s from a particular hospital through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or state public records requests.  CMS released the Form 2567s to AHCJ as part of a collaborative effort to respond to the latter’s request for these documents.

When AHCJ President Charles Ornstein announced the database’s availability, he explained that it will allow the public to use keyword searches to find out which hospitals in a particular city or region had received inspections under the Form 2567 process, and how many times CMS issued a Form 2567 to a particular facility for the same error or deficiency.  Overall, the database allows users to compare facilities more easily, without having to submit multiple FOIA or state records requests.  The AHCJ will add newly issued reports on a quarterly basis.  Currently, the database does not contain hospital plans of correction that document their responses to the Form 2567 reports and inspections, but CMS continues to consider efforts to make these documents available online.  The AHCJ is also urging The Joint Commission to release results of its accreditation surveys of hospitals.

The new Form 2567 database follows last year’s release of the CMS-based Nursing Home Compare website that documents quality of care information from over 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid-certified facilities.  Additionally, comparison and review websites focused on individual physicians and providers have proliferated in recent years.  Health care providers will need to carefully consider their responses to written agency inquires as the amount of information about them available on the Internet increases and as CMS’s involvement in transparency efforts also increases.