"Public reporting can be a good thing if it's done right," said Dr. Jane Siegel, professor of pediatrics who chairs the Infection Control Committee at Children's Medical Center Dallas. "If it's done right, we're talking about improving the quality of health care and patient safety in hospitals. As health-care professionals, we want to see that. As consumers, we want to see that."
There's a growing appetite for infection-control report cards that the public could use in selecting hospitals and that hospitals could use to lower infection rates: Thirty-nine states have introduced legislation, and six have passed laws requiring reporting of certain data. In Texas, legislators created an advisory panel in their June session to study the issue.
Every state is likely to have some standard within the next couple of years, predicted Dr. Siegel, a co-author of the journal's Perspective article.
Consumers Union, which initiated public reporting of hospital infection rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and professional societies are working together to define elements for a successful public reporting system.
It's not as easy as handing out A's or F's or rating the performance of automobiles or refrigerators, said Dr. Siegel, who served eight years on the CDC Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee. Health-care officials must decide what infections hospitals should track and what benchmarks should be used, she said.
Reporting systems need to account for, among other factors, differences in patient populations and ensure that hospitals are using similar methods to report the data.