Skip to main content

All Access Subscription

Get unlimited access to our full publication and article library.

Get Access Now

Interested in Group Sales? Learn more

Hospital Report logo small


The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

A step back on data transparency

I guess this is what happens when I get my hopes up.

Back on June 4, I wrote about what I considered to be some very positive signs indicating that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had gotten serious about committing to data transparency in health care.

After all, it wasn’t so long ago that Marilyn Tavenner and two co-authors wrote a fairly stirring defense in the New England Journal of Medicine of the agency’s decision to release certain Medicare physician data.

That piece ended with this – to my mind – incredibly encouraging paragraph: “CMS is committed to producing and releasing high-quality data that permit as many users as possible to better understand the Medicare program. The physician data release is part of a broader strategy of data transparency, and we plan to continue to release additional data in the future. We believe that transparency will drive health system improvement.”

What a difference two months can make. As you may have heard by now, on August 6, USA Today reported that CMS has quietly removed data on eight hospital-acquired conditions from its Hospital Compare site. Among the eight are air embolism and foreign objects left in the body after surgery, according to the article.

I understand that plenty of good people working in hospitals are happy about this development. I understand that the data on some of these conditions might not be the most complete, and I understand that some people in the industry might worry that it could be misinterpreted by a general public that is not exactly brimming with expert statisticians.

But if we accept the notion that transparency can drive improvement – and I think we should – then why not err on the side of more disclosure, rather than less?

Personally, I find it disheartening to see CMS pull back from data transparency at a time when it really looked as though they were starting to embrace it.