Some people continue to believe that the best way to improve schools is to provide ratings of how good they are. Now the medical profession is experiencing the same kind of thinking. An MSNBC report on October 17, 2011 asked: “How safe is your hospital?” And then reported that “New website lets you check."
We are told that "the new data on patient safety moves Medicare further along toward its ultimate goal, which is to base payments on the actual medical outcomes for patients.”
Not surprisingly, hospital professionals have concerns about the approach being taken. The report noted that: “… the latest data is intensifying objections from the hospital industry and some academic researchers that Medicare is using dubious and unfair measurements in ways that will hurt some hospitals, particularly those with sicker patients.”
In language that is similar to objections raised by educators about the mis-measurement of schooling, a hospital expert said, “we believe the data is fairly seriously flawed in the way it’s calculated.” Nancy Foster, a vice president at the American Hospital Association, continued, “when inaccurate data is out there, it both misleads the public and generates a lot of activity that is unproductive in the hospital.”
As one of my wiser professors liked to say, just because you attach numbers to something, doesn’t mean you have said anything accurate about it. Whether it is hospital safety or school quality, look carefully at claims from people who insist their measurements tell the truth.