In its 1999 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that medical error leads to between 44,000 and 98,000 deaths per year. Given that statistic, public reporting of quality and safety metrics is a welcome response that may serve to reduce the rate of adverse events and restore patients' trust in the health care system. To ensure that any public reporting system fulfills its potential, several questions must be addressed: Are we measuring the right metrics? Are the metrics accurate, valid, and is their public reporting effecting change? Based on a review of the literature, it is clear that current metrics suffer from low reliability, low validity, and possibly minimal relevance to the intended consumer. To improve data collection and analysis, both physicians and health care consumers need to be involved in the design and collection of metrics. Until we have a valid, reliable, and actionable data set at our fingertips, it would behoove patients, providers, and institutions to look at outcome and safety metrics with a skeptical and discerning eye.
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