Last week the USA Today published an exclusive story addressing the manner in which the US Department of Veterans Affairs rates Veterans Health Administration medical centers. The amazing part of this story is not that the VA rates its own hospitals and clinics, but rather that it keeps these ratings secret from the veterans receiving treatment from the Veterans Health Administration as well as the public at large.
VA Undersecretary for Health David Shulkin confirmed to the periodical that the VA culls data from massive amounts of information that is publicly available through various sources to into a five star rating system in order to determine whether its facilities are improving. The VA has maintained a policy of refusing to release this information, largely out of fear that veterans will refuse to use lower rated hospitals and clinics. Accordingly to the VA, the ratings are only intended for its internal assessment purposes. Among other things, the agency appears to worry that the flight of veterans from lower rated facilities will make it more difficult to improve those facilities. The ethical question that remains unanswered is, of course, whether uninformed veterans should unknowingly bear the cost of the VA's attempts at improving its under-performing facilities. In its defense, the VA argues that the same data used for its rating system is available to the public at large; although, Shulkin admits, "you'd have to be an expert to get through it."
The full story is available from the USA Today at this link: Internal Documents Detail Secret VA Quality Ratings