It is becoming increasingly common to publish information about the quality and performance of healthcare organisations and individual professionals. However, we do not know how this information is used, or the extent to which such reporting leads to quality improvement by changing the behaviour of healthcare consumers, providers, and purchasers.
To estimate the effects of public release of performance data, from any source, on changing the healthcare utilisation behaviour of healthcare consumers, providers (professionals and organisations), and purchasers of care. In addition, we sought to estimate the effects on healthcare provider performance, patient outcomes, and staff morale.
We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, and two trials registers on 26 June 2017. We checked reference lists of all included studies to identify additional studies.
We searched for randomised or non-randomised trials, interrupted time series, and controlled before-after studies of the effects of publicly releasing data regarding any aspect of the performance of healthcare organisations or professionals. Each study had to report at least one main outcome related to selecting or changing care.
Two review authors independently screened studies for eligibility and extracted data. For each study, we extracted data about the target groups (healthcare consumers, healthcare providers, and healthcare purchasers), performance data, main outcomes (choice of healthcare provider, and improvement by means of changes in care), and other outcomes (awareness, attitude, knowledge of performance data, and costs). Given the substantial degree of clinical and methodological heterogeneity between the studies, we presented the findings for each policy in a structured format, but did not undertake a meta-analysis.
We included 12 studies that analysed data from more than 7570 providers (e.g. professionals and organisations), and a further 3,333,386 clinical encounters (e.g. patient referrals, prescriptions). We included four cluster-randomised trials, one cluster-non-randomised trial, six interrupted time series studies, and one controlled before-after study. Eight studies were undertaken in the USA, and one each in Canada, Korea, China, and The Netherlands. Four studies examined the effect of public release of performance data on consumer healthcare choices, and four on improving quality.There was low-certainty evidence that public release of performance data may make little or no difference to long-term healthcare utilisation by healthcare consumers (3 studies; 18,294 insurance plan beneficiaries), or providers (4 studies; 3,000,000 births, and 67 healthcare providers), or to provider performance (1 study; 82 providers). However, there was also low-certainty evidence to suggest that public release of performance data may slightly improve some patient outcomes (5 studies, 315,092 hospitalisations, and 7502 providers). There was low-certainty evidence from a single study to suggest that public release of performance data may have differential effects on disadvantaged populations. There was no evidence about effects on healthcare utilisation decisions by purchasers, or adverse effects.
The existing evidence base is inadequate to directly inform policy and practice. Further studies should consider whether public release of performance data can improve patient outcomes, as well as healthcare processes.