Editorial: Keeping the Transparency Focus on Quality Improvement

Added on Jul 22, 2016

Editorial: Keeping the Transparency Focus on Quality Improvement
By Diana Mahoney
From Industry Edge July 2016

Health care systems that have adopted transparency as a strategy to improve their performance by engaging patients and caregivers with complete and objective data understand that doing it “right” takes time, commitment, leadership support and, most of all, perseverance. They also understand that, at times, it may be difficult to hear the signal amid all of the distracting noise that threatens to halt their progress.

The noise can come in the form of pushback from executives who are ambivalent about the process; it can come from individual physicians or physician groups who are worried about having a light shone on their own performance; it can even come from industry sources who fear becoming irrelevant because they don’t have the tools or technology to compete in a newly transparent, value-based marketplace.

Separating the signal from the noise requires a special filter—one that maintains steely focus on the essence and value of true performance transparency, which is to meet patients’ needs for safe, effective, quality care, according to Press Ganey Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas H. Lee. “This can only be achieved by nurturing a culture of continuous quality improvement, educating and engaging clinicians in the journey, and adopting a robust process that is powered by scientifically valid performance data to inspire confidence across all stakeholders,” he said.

From the patient’s perspective, the “face” of transparency is reflected in online physician reviews. To trust the data, patients must trust the process both when they read the reviews and when they participate in the surveys, Dr. Lee explained. As consumers, patients want assurance that the ratings are truly reflective of actual patient experiences, that they represent statistically meaningful sample sizes and that the comments—negative and positive—are presented in their entirety, unedited but for those that are libelous, slanderous, or profane or that risk the privacy of patients, he said.

As survey participants, patients expect confidentiality, though not anonymity, because to be anonymous is to have no voice. “Patients want to be heard, and they want what they say to matter,” Dr. Lee said. To that end, “providers must promise confidentiality and honor that promise when sharing patient reviews—whether in board meetings, during leadership rounds, in staff coaching or online—by de-identifying ratings and comments.”

For providers, transparency represents a reliable, meaningful way to take an active role in the conversation about the quality of the care experience they deliver, Dr. Lee stressed. “Organizations that embrace transparency as a cultural value and embark on their transparency journey guided by the goal of reducing patient suffering and improving the quality, safety  and experience of care are in the best position to disregard any distracting noise that might impede their progress.”