Most U.S. Hospitals reporting quality data

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More than 98 percent of U.S. hospitals are now reporting quality-of-care data for certain ailments, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).

According to the agency, the numbers pertain to heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia cases because the conditions can result in hospital stays and are common among people with Medicare. It plans to post data on whether hospitals gave aspirin or beta blockers to heart attack patients upon arrival or discharge.

The reporting of this information, which will be available to consumers online ( http://www.medicare.gov) or by phone (1-800-MEDICARE) in early 2005, is voluntary, but hospitals that do not comply face lower reimbursement than other hospitals. Hospitals will see their annual Medicare fee update reduced by 0.4 percent, which can translate into millions of dollars for a large hospital system, the agency noted.

According to Mark McClellan, MD, CMS administrator, quality reporting could be expanded to other disease categories and patient satisfaction. CMS is working on developing these measures with hospitals and consumer groups

Quality information is now posted on the CMS Web site, with more than 3,000 hospitals currently reporting data. Reporting began in 2003 under the public-private National Voluntary Hospital Reporting Initiative, which supported the development of Medicare's Hospital Quality Initiative.