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Anna Greenberg

Installing Better Signposts

Public reporting on health system performance is an essential part of health care improvement. This we know.

But in order for such reporting to be effective, the data being reported has to be read and, if necessary, acted upon by those for whom it is intended. Cue our recently redesigned public reporting pages on the Health Quality Ontario website - improved navigation and easier to read graphs on health system performance indicators for the primary care, long-term care and home care sectors.

In 2012, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation published a monograph on improving public reporting websites for consumers. The recommendations were based on an assessment of eight community-based US organizations who tested websites providing health information. While intended to guide organizations providing information to members of the public to help individuals make decisions about their own health, the findings also speak to the rationale behind the recent redesign by Health Quality Ontario for its current reporting initiatives aimed primarily at health care providers, planners and managers.

That report concluded that to be effective, a website should provide information clearly and use a consistent framework. The report also recommended using proven strategies for displaying quality data, as well as clear labeling to help users interpret and apply the data.

This is what Health Quality Ontario has attempted to do with the redesign of our web pages, including extensive ongoing involvement of patients and the public in the design and display of performance information – another recommendation made by the report.

With the public reporting of health system performance information across sectors in Ontario just entering its second decade, there is obviously room to improve what is being reported – to who, and how. This was one of the key themes at a lively discussion of the topic at our Health Quality Transformation annual conference last fall.

A representative from the Canadian Institute of Health Information told the meeting that when it comes to the public reporting of health data, there needs to be a balance between meeting the needs of the public and the use of resources to meet those needs.

Emily Nicholas, a patient advisor with health care organizations across Canada, agreed that aggregated data is not being used by patients as much as personal stories from others who have had similar experiences in the system. Despite this, she said public reporting makes sense and is an important tool for patient engagement and to support informed and rational patient and caregiver decisions.

She advocated doing public reporting of health in an iterative fashion rather than waiting until it is perfected.

Health Quality Ontario agrees that public reporting of health information is a journey rather than a destination.

Our latest redesign is intended to provide clearer signposts for people travelling down the road of transparency toward higher quality care.

Public reporting of the health care system in Ontario is an important part of the mandate for Health Quality Ontario, so expect to see more innovations on our part in the months ahead - including a move away from siloed reporting by sectors.

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