What Does “Public Reporting” Mean, and Why Should I Care?

by Marian Essey, RN, BSN, COS-C

The terms “Care Compare” and “public reporting” are sometimes used interchangeably, but are they the same?

The term “public reporting” is often used by CMS or in conjunction with information shared by CMS, but what does it really mean? What are the public reporting requirements? And why should agencies care about what is publicly reported?

The following timeline outlines how CMS public reporting has evolved over time and demonstrates the escalation in use and transparency of home health data:

  • October 2003 – Home Health Compare – The launch of Home Health Compare website – Home health data on quality measure results was first shared publicly by CMS. The website provided information on the quality of care provided by Medicare-certified home health agencies across the United States.
  • 2010 – The Affordable Care Act of 2010 – This act mandated that CMS publicly report and make widely available transparent and easily understood information on provider quality.
  • January 2014 – IMPACT Act of 2014 – This act mandated that CMS provide home health agencies and other post-acute care provider with the opportunity to review and submit corrections to the data and information that is to be made public with respect to the provider prior to such data being made public.
  • July 2015 – Home Health Quality of Patient Care Star Ratings – CMS launched star ratings for home health agencies on Home Health Compare to provide home health care consumers with a summary quality measure in an accessible format. The Quality of Patient Care Star Ratings were calculated using data from select OASIS-based and claims-based quality measures.
  • January 2016 – Patient Survey Star Ratings – CMS first posted the Patient Survey Star Ratings. These star ratings come from the patient experience of care survey, also called the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) survey.
  • April 2017 – Home Health Review and Correct Report – To comply with the IMPACT Act mandate, CMS launched the new quarterly report, the Review and Correct Report, which provided agencies with a mechanism to review the results of their assessment-based quality measures and correct the data if needed.
  • September 2020 – Care Compare and Provider Data Catalog – CMS launched these new websites, retiring Home Health Compare and other provider-specific “compare” websites.
  • Care Compare – Is a consumer-facing database of provider quality information that streamlines eight separate sites into one tool that allows Medicare beneficiaries to compare doctors and clinicians, hospitals, nursing homes, home health services, hospice care, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, long-term care hospitals, and dialysis facilities.
  • Provider Data Catalog – Is a database of publicly available data on healthcare providers and suppliers that participate in Medicare and including downloadable data from the Care Compare website as well as additional data from Quality Reporting Programs and Value-Based Purchasing Programs, if applicable. The Provider Data Catalog does not include data from Home Health Value-Based Purchasing. The data is updated regularly, with quarterly updates for the data supporting Care Compare refreshes and can be accessed by the public for research and analysis purposes. The catalog is part of the CMS Open Data Initiative, which aims to make CMS data more accessible to the public.

Uses of Publicly Reported Data

CMS has historically used a variety of mechanisms to support and report publicly reported data that supports the Home Health Quality Reporting Program (HH QRP). However, currently CMS uses Care Compare and the Provider Data Catalog to display all public-facing data related to the HH QRP.

Although the impetus for Care Compare is to support consumers in selecting health care providers, the use of the publicly available data goes far beyond this use. Some Medicare Advantage plans, and other managed care organizations, use publicly available data from the Provider Data Catalog to determine and structure contracts with home health agencies. Some data analytics companies use the data to create custom reports that highlight agencies’ quality measure strengths and weaknesses.

The Importance of Publicly Reported Data

In summary, the following questions glean some insights into why publicly reported data is of critical importance to home health agencies.

  • “What is publicly reported data?” For the HH QRP, publicly reported data is the data available to consumers on Care Compare. Downloadable data from Care Compare and additional data is available on the Provider Data Catalog. “
  • “Why should I care about publicly reported data?” Publicly reported data is used by consumers, facility discharge planners, Medicare Advantage plans, managed care organizations, data analytics companies, and others to make decisions about selecting and paying home health agencies for the care they provide.
  • “The terms Care Compare and public reporting are sometimes used interchangeably, but are they the same?” No, CMS is currently able to publicly report data from the HH QRP on Care Compare and on the Provider Data Catalog. Providers and others that are seeking more detailed agency-level data, can investigate the data on Provider Data Catalog which has additional details on some quality measures.

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