Health & Medicine

Groups push for Congress to open hospital accreditation reports

A Kentucky health advocacy group has joined about 50 similar organizations across the country in urging Congress to open hospital accreditation surveys for public access.

The group includes Kentucky-based Health Watch USA; Consumers Union, which publishes Consumer Reports magazine; and Mothers Against Medical Error.

Dr. Kevin Kavanagh, a Somerset physician who heads Health Watch USA, contends that making the survey results public would give patients more information about hospitals' operations, including their efforts to prevent hospital-acquired infections, and foster greater transparency.

The principal aim is to open up survey reports by The Joint Commission, a non-profit group that performs most of the hospital accreditations performed nationwide. The federal government does not disclose the survey results now.

"We believe it's in the public interest to have all accreditation survey findings of The Joint Commission and other bodies accessible to the public," Kavanagh said. "Since the country is now starting a push toward greater health care transparency, shouldn't opening these accreditation surveys be our first step?"

The health advocacy groups last week wrote Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, urging him to back legislation to make hospital accreditation findings "available and readily accessible to the public." Kavanagh signed the letter on behalf of advocacy groups.

Kavanagh has campaigned for several years in Kentucky to have information on hospital infections and medical errors made public, much as restaurant health inspections are now.

"The argument that consumers aren't smart enough to understand this information doesn't hold water," he said.