Florida House looks for transparency in health care

By Christine Sexton, The News Service of Florida
News Service of Florida

Rep. Michael Grant, R- Port Charlotte, is the sponsor of the bill. (Photo courtesy: News Service of Florida)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Patients admitted to Florida hospitals could get more paperwork in the future in the name of health care “transparency.”

A House panel on Wednesday approved a bill that would require hospitals to give patients written information about the facilities’ infection rates, 15-day readmission rates and overall ratings on a national health-system survey.

The information already is available to consumers on a state website, but bill sponsor Michael Grant, R- Port Charlotte, said it’s not being utilized.

“What we have found through research is few, if any, patients are actually accessing that information,” Grant told members of the House Health Market Reform Subcommittee. “What this bill would require is that hospitals provide that information to patients when they are in a non-emergency situation prior to treatment or upon admission.”

The proposal (HB 319) goes beyond providing the already-available information to consumers in a written form.

Grant’s bill also would require hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers to begin surveying their staffs about patient safety, including inquiring whether staff members would be admitted for procedures at the facilities where they work. Hospitals and ambulatory surgical center would be required to submit the results to the state for publication.

“What you get is better quality care when the public has access to the information,” Grant said.

The surveys would be developed by the state Agency for Health Care Administration. The bill would require that the surveys be designed to measure a series of patient-safety issues such as frequency of adverse medical events; comfort in reporting potential problems or errors; the level of teamwork within hospital units and facilities as a whole; and staff compliance with patient-safety regulations and guidelines.

Grant said he is pushing the bill because hospitals will improve quality if they know members of the public will be aware of the type of care they will be receiving.

House leaders are pushing hospital and ambulatory surgical-center surveys as a health-care transparency tool, and it’s the third consecutive year the bill has been filed in the House.

The Health Market Reform Subcommittee agreed to pass the bill by an 11-2 vote, despite a recommendation from a state advisory panel in December to the contrary.

The State Consumer Health Information and Policy Advisory Council was established in state law as an advisory body for the Agency for Health Care Administration.  Its members come from a variety of sectors in the health-care industry, including HMOs, hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers.

The panel voted unanimously in December to advise the Agency for Health Care Administration to oppose the House measure.

David Shapiro, a medical doctor and a certified health-care risk manager and partner in an ambulatory surgical-care consulting company, said information collected in the surveys isn’t for public consumption.

“Putting these out in the public domain would diminish our ability to use them to create that really important culture of patient safety to ensure that we take care of the patients to the best of our ability,” Shapiro said in December.

Grant’s bill is scheduled to be heard next by the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and the House Health & Human Services Committee. A Senate version has not been filed. The annual legislative session starts March 5.

News Service of Florida