"This is a very effective measure that allows patients to choose the most appropriate hospital in which to seek treatment," said Frederik Roeder, German health economist and author of the study entitled Quality Reporting in German Hospitals: A Model for Quebec
. "Since they are able to gather the relevant data on the quality of care in different hospitals, patients, and referring doctors too, can choose the best health care facility for the job."
The reports include information such as descriptions of the treatments conducted by a hospital in a given year, how many of each were performed, and rates of complications and quality violations.
"Using this database, patients can compare not only different hospitals' expertise, but also whether a hospital is above average, average, or below average in providing these services compared to other hospitals in its region and nationwide," Roeder added.
The reports don’t just provide accountability; since reports of good service attract patients, who provide critical revenue, the documents provide a motivation for hospitals to improve their services. German hospitals are also starting to receive compensation based explicitly on treatment quality, which provides an additional incentive for hospitals to step up.
"The data speaks for itself," said MEI Research Director Youri Chassin, a collaborator on the study. "Just from 2013 to 2014, more than 15% of the 416 indicators measured showed significant improvements, meaning lower complication rates during and after hospital treatment, a speedier recovery, and a lower lethality rate."
Among Quebec’s proposed healthcare reforms are plans to finance its hospitals through activity-based funding, abandoning historically defined global budgets. Should such changes be instituted, it would also be a perfect time to adopt, or at least adapt, the German model of hospital quality reporting.
"It could represent a quantum leap for the quality of care in Quebec if the province implemented a reporting system. Everyone would win: patients, hospitals, and doctors," concluded Chassin.
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An economic note published by the Montreal Economic Institute describes how the German government requires all hospitals to publish, every two years, data on the quality of their services, and to make the data available to patients.