What Is the Environment for Reporting on Health Care Quality?

Whether working alone or in collaboration with others, report sponsors need to understand:

  • The circumstances in which the reporting project will take place.
  • The likely implications of the project for:
    • The sponsoring organizations,
    • The organizations you’re reporting on, and
    • Your audience.

The search for information about the local environment will help you identify the factors that are most likely to affect your project and its effectiveness. Even a quick review of the local marketplace can keep you from getting into a situation that is either politically inadvisable, financially infeasible, or simply a waste of time. It can also help you identify other local efforts that you could leverage and/or partners with whom you could collaborate.

Availability and Degree of Choice

One thing you will need to determine is whether your audience has health care choices to make and the nature of those choices.

If your audience is choosing insurance plans:

If your audience is choosing a health care provider:

The answers to these questions can help you determine how to make the information you have relevant and useful to your audience.

What if your audience is large and heterogeneous? If your potential audience is very large and varied (e.g., if you are producing a report that anyone in the State might consult), you may need to break it down into segments. This means identifying distinct segments within your audience, estimating the size of those segments, and characterizing their choices. For instance, some segments may have no choice among health plans or providers, while others have several.

Dominant Organizations in the Local Market

Many report sponsors are already familiar with the major health care organizations and other stakeholders in their market. It can be helpful to document what you know about them so that everyone involved is clear on who will be affected by reporting decisions. Since markets can change over time, documenting basic facts about the current market can help you and future participants in the reporting project keep track of changes over time, especially ones that may affect future reporting efforts.

Questions to ask about local health plans:

Questions about health care providers:

Questions about purchasers and regulators:

Questions about multistakeholder initiatives:

Questions about other reporting initiatives:

Look at any other reports on quality in your area to identify information needs and gaps. These include local reports as well as ones with a national reach, such as reports produced by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the National Committee for Quality Assurance, Consumer Reports, and U.S. News & World Reports.

  • Who else is providing information about quality to the audience you hope to reach?
  • What information do they provide?
  • How long has this information been available?
  • How have health plans and providers responded to previous attempt to report on quality (if any)?
  • How is what you are thinking about doing the same or different? Where could confusion or even dissension arise?

Questions about consumer/patient groups in your area:

Finding this information. Answers to the questions above may come from a variety of sources, including:

  • The State’s Department of Insurance.
  • State or local Departments of Health.
  • Local and regional media coverage of the industry.

Costs and Benefits of Public Reporting

Whether you are reporting on quality voluntarily (e.g., as a private purchaser) or because you are mandated to (e.g., by State legislation), it is useful to assess the potential costs and benefits of this reporting effort.

Questions about the political implications of public reporting:

Questions about staffing implications:

Questions about financial implications:

Learn more about Managing a Reporting Project.

Also in "Get Started: What You Need To Know"

Page last reviewed June 2016
Page originally created February 2015
Internet Citation: What Is the Environment for Reporting on Health Care Quality?. Content last reviewed June 2016. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. https://www.ahrq.gov/talkingquality/plan/environment.html
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