Handing Over the Keys Is Bittersweet

Maribeth Shannon

December 12, 2016
Maribeth Shannon
Maribeth Shannon

For 12 years, the California Health Care Foundation operated CalQualityCare.org, an interactive, consumer-oriented website with quality ratings of both the state's hospitals and long-term care facilities. Recently, CHCF handed over its keys to a pair of carefully chosen new owners intimately familiar with the inner workings of this website. Each of these longtime partners of the foundation played an important role in producing CalQualityCare.org.

Now, when consumers visit CalQualityCare.org to view ratings for long-term care providers and facilities, they will find a site managed by a team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). This group has collected, analyzed, and provided the ratings since the service began.

Consumers looking for hospital quality information will find it at CalHospitalCompare.org. The nonprofit organization formerly known as the California Hospital Assessment and Reporting Taskforce (CHART) — a coalition of payers, employers, hospitals, and consumer groups — will continue supporting data collection and ratings for the site, as it has for many years. To minimize confusion, CHART is changing its name to match the website, so it will also be known as Cal Hospital Compare.

CalQualityCare.org logo

Why two separate websites? In analyzing site traffic, CHCF found that most users were interested in researching particular facilities, and it wasn't necessary to maintain acute care and long-term care measures in the same location. We tried to keep the site unified, but it turned out to be more efficient and more useful to consumers to place the content in the custody of the two organizations that provided the data all along. Read a short Q&A about the transition.

CHCF provided seed funding for the site transfer to the two partner organizations, but ongoing financial support will be assumed by the new operators. How often the data will be updated will be decided by the respective organizations, although they anticipate that update schedules will be quarterly — roughly the same as they have been in recent years.

Why Now?

Although such transitions are common in the foundation world, this one feels bittersweet. While it is gratifying to know the work will continue, it's a little sad to move on from a project that has meant so much to so many people. We're proud to say that since we began tracking the audience in 2006, CalQualityCare.org clocked 14.1 million page views, spread over 3 million separate visits. We consider sharing this data with consumers to be an important part of working with collaborators to create a more responsive, patient-centered health care system.

CalQualityCare.org ratings scale

During our sponsorship, we watched the field of quality measurement explode. Transparency has been embraced by providers, payers, and consumers. We no longer argue about whether quality should be measured. Now we work together with health plans, providers, and consumers to use the information in ways that improve care for patients.

A key role of foundations like CHCF is to incubate new ideas and then integrate such innovation into the industry's mainstream thought. Foundation funding makes the most sense when testing a new idea before others are able to build the business case to sustain the work. In the case of transparency as a lever for change, we have indeed reached a tipping point. At the national level the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has committed to paying the vast majority of services under a value-based model that has quality metrics at the core.

CHCF's assumption in incubating quality measurement in California was to test whether assessing and clearly communicating quality could motivate improvement. Based on the commitment of providers and payers to build quality measurement into the fabric of the websites, it's clear that we have.

I encourage you to take the new CalQualityCare.org and CalHospitalCompare.org vehicles out for a spin. We are confident that our partners will keep them polished and running smoothly.