Health Care Transparency: A Powerful Pact

Added on Apr 30, 2015

The push for transparency is one of the most transformative movements in health care. Navigating the complex health care system as a patient is challenging, anxiety-producing and at times frightening. 

By openly sharing performance data at the individual physician level, you are empowering your patients to actively participate in decisions about their care. You are also delivering on an unwritten pact to provide meaningful information upon which thoughtful care decisions can be based. 

To this end, the data your organization shares must be reliable, accurate, comprehensive and statistically valid. It must also be communicated in a way that affords an objective internal and external understanding of provider performance. 

If done correctly, transparency promotes physician accountability for the patient experience, drives organizational improvement and creates a bond of trust with the community. Ultimately, it will transform the relationships between your system, clinicians and patients. 

Transparency initiatives that are poorly conceived or implemented, however, can destroy credibility. In today’s consumer-driven health care marketplace, the underlying foundation of transparency must be quality data. Imagine your community’s response to poor or incomplete data? 

The transparency movement is about your system’s ability to deliver safe, quality, patient-centered care, and it is about the integrity of your brand. It is not solely about “reputation management,” although that expression gets bandied about. 

The single fastest route to brand disaster is breaking trust with your community by adopting an approach built around invalid, incomplete or unclear data. Tools and strategies powered by insufficient sample sizes and those that allow for the arbitrary manipulation and selective suppression of data inaccurately portray provider performance and undermine the true value of transparency: building trust with your community. 

Press Ganey Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Lee refers to this type of faux transparency as translucency. “The problem with translucency—in which some, but not all, data are released, and the information is presented in ways that make it difficult to understand the details—is that it is not particularly helpful to anyone,” says Dr. Lee. “Patients can tell that they are not getting the complete story, and providers are not encouraged to improve.” 

As we strive for true patient centeredness there are no quick fixes. Sustainable performance is hard work, but the journey is well worth it. Organizations that embrace the transparency pact with their communities and put the patient at the center of care will outperform the overall market and will enhance their brand through measurable performance improvement.