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Government Removes Public Access to Information on Hospital Errors

Update Date: Aug 06, 2014 03:01 PM EDT

Starting this month, people can no longer search for information on some of the avoidable errors that hospitals make. The federal government has decided to quietly remove public access to select information.

USA Today reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) stopped reporting all the instances when hospitals made eight specific life-threatening errors, such as using the wrong blood type, leaving foreign objects in patients during surgery and air embolisms, which occurs when air bubbles enter the heart and veins.

Prior to the change, these problems, called "hospital acquired conditions" (HACs), could be viewed on the Hospital Compare website. The website provided information regarding how often HACs occurred at acute care hospitals. Now, after the change, eight of these HACs have been dropped with only 13 remaining. The conditions that people can still look up include sepsis post-surgery and infections, such as MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureaus). The only people who have access to the other information are quality researchers, patient-safety advocates and consumers who can calculate the data using claims.

"People deserve to know if the hospital down the street from them had a disastrous event and should be able to judge for themselves whether that's a reasonable indicator of the safety of that hospital," said Leah Binder, CEO of the Leapfrog Group.

The spokesman for CMS, Aaron Albright, stated that they decided to drop the eight HACs because they were uncommon and less relevant. Albright stated that they wanted to provide new data that is "most relevant to consumers." He added that CMS's decision to make these changes was supported by the National Quality Forum (NQF). The spokeswoman for NQF stated that the eight HACs were not "appropriate for comparing one hospital to another," reported by TIME.

The removal of HACs will not only impact consumers, it will also affect the amount of money that hospitals get from Medicare or Medicaid. Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals that have the highest rates of HACs will get up to one percent less in reimbursements.

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