Reporting Quality of Nursing Home Care to Consumers

The Maryland Experience

Published In: International Journal For Quality In Health Care, v. 15, no. 2, Mar. 2003, p. 169-177

by Soeren Mattke, Karen Reilly, Enrique Martinez-Vidal, Barbara McLean, David R. Gifford

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OBJECTIVE: To design and implement a reporting system for quality of long-term care to empower consumers and to create incentives for quality improvement. To identify a model to approach this technically and politically difficult task. APPROACH: Establishment of a credible and transparent decision process using a public forum. Development of the system based on: (1) review of the literature and existing systems, and discussions with stakeholders about strengths and weaknesses; (2) focus on consumer preferences in the design; and (3) responsiveness to industry concerns in the implementation. LESSONS LEARNED: None of the existing systems appeared to be a suitable model. We decided to develop an entirely new system based on three key design principles that allowed us to tailor the system to consumer needs: (1) designing a decision tool rather than a database; (2) summarizing rather than simplifying information; and (3) accounting for the target audience in the creative execution. Industry concerns focused on the burden of the system, the potential for errors, and the possible communication of a negative impression of the industry. As methodological and data limitations prevented us from resolving those concerns, we addressed them by using cautionary language in the presentation and by making a commitment to incorporate improvements in the future. All stakeholders regarded the final design as an acceptable compromise. CONCLUSIONS: Despite its potentially controversial nature and many methodological challenges, the system has been well received by both the public and the industry. We attribute this success to two key factors: a collaborative decision process, in which all critical design and execution choices were laid out explicitly and debated with stakeholders in a public forum, and realism and honesty regarding the limitations of the system.

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