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Public release of performance data and quality improvement: internal responses to external data by US health care providers
  1. H T O Davies, reader in health care policy & management
  1. Department of Management, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9AL, UK
  1. Dr H T O Davies hd{at}


Health policy in many countries emphasises the public release of comparative data on clinical performance as one way of improving the quality of health care. Evidence to date is that it is health care providers (hospitals and the staff within them) that are most likely to respond to such data, yet little is known about how health care providers view and use these data. Case studies of six US hospitals were studied (two academic medical centres, two private not-for-profit medical centres, a group model health maintenance organisation hospital, and an inner city public provider “safety net” hospital) using semi-structured interviews followed by a broad thematic analysis located within an interpretive paradigm. Within these settings, 35 interviews were held with 31 individuals (chief executive officer, chief of staff, chief of cardiology, senior nurse, senior quality managers, and front line staff). The results showed that key stakeholders in these providers were often (but not always) antipathetic towards publicly released comparative data. Such data were seen as lacking in legitimacy and their meanings were disputed. Nonetheless, the public nature of these data did lead to some actions in response, more so when the data showed that local performance was poor. There was little integration between internal and external data systems. These findings suggest that the public release of comparative data may help to ensure that greater attention is paid to the quality agenda within health care providers, but greater efforts are needed both to develop internal systems of quality improvement and to integrate these more effectively with external data systems.

  • quality of health care
  • quality improvement
  • comparative performance data
  • public disclosure

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