Scientific learning presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false
While the 13th Century Catholic theologian Thomas Aquinas was discussing matters of faith, his words stand as a reminder that scrutiny should ultimately lead to progressive change. Unfortunately, within the healthcare community, public assessment is oft viewed as admonishment. Conversely, public recognition can be used as a marketing tool for certain providers and their specific departments.

For instance, when Thomson Reuters, or other such firms, release their annual national rankings of top 100 providers of cardiovascular care, individuals are mainly concerned with whether their institution made the cut. However, Thompson Reuters stresses that the processes  practiced by the winners could result in nearly 6,000 patients and 720 additional heart patients being complication-free annually. The firm evaluated performance in four cardiovascular treatment areas for Medicare patients: acute MI, heart failure, PCI and CABG.

Also, CMS has contracted with a Yale University research company, in collaboration with the ACC, to develop two cardiac outcomes measures based on registry and/or claims data and designed for potential use in public reporting and pay-for-reporting of hospital quality. Specifically, the agency will develop measures to deal with complications following ICD implantation and readmission following PCI.

CMS is hoping to use the measures as a source for rewarding top performing hospitals, but others fear a negative backlash emerge from public data for those facilities that do not meet the measures stipulated by the government agency.

However, providers are not the only ones feeling the burden of public scrutiny this week. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report suggesting that resource constraints prevent the FDA from meeting its responsibility to oversee the safety and effectiveness of medical devices and pharmaceuticals. However, the GAO said one of the main problems facing the FDA is that it does not have a handle on which resources it needs to fulfill its mission.

In the meantime, the FDA, under the new presidential administration, has promised to increase its transparency and effectiveness. In fact, in a speech last week, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, outlined a six-step strategy to make the agency's regulatory and enforcement efforts more efficient.

Ideally, all this public scrutiny will lead to stronger organizations, which will materialize into better patient care. Until that transpires, another sentiment from Aquinas may provide solace: Faith has to do with things that are [yet] not seen.

On these topics, or any others, please feel free to contact me.

Justine Cadet