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Open Access Research article

Chances and risks of publication of quality data – the perspectives of Swiss physicians and nurses

Regula Heller1* and David Schwappach23

Author Affiliations

1 University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

2 Scientific Head – Swiss Patient Safety Foundation, Zurich, Switzerland

3 Institute for Social and preventive Medicine (ISPM), University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland

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BMC Health Services Research 2012, 12:368  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-368

Published: 26 October 2012

Abstract

Background

The release of quality data from acute care hospitals to the general public is based on the aim to inform the public, to provide transparency and to foster quality-based competition among providers. Due to the expected mechanisms of action and possibly the adverse consequences of public quality comparison, it is a controversial topic. The perspective of physicians and nurses is of particular importance in this context. They are mainly responsible for the collection of quality-control data, and are directly confronted with the results of public comparison. The research focus of this qualitative study was to discover what the views and opinions of the Swiss physicians and nurses were regarding these issues. It was investigated as to how the two professional groups appraised the opportunities as well as the risks of the release of quality data in Switzerland.

Methods

A qualitative approach was chosen to answer the research question. For data collection, four focus groups were conducted with physicians and nurses who were employed in Swiss acute care hospitals. Qualitative content analysis was applied to the data.

Results

The results revealed that both occupational groups had a very critical and negative attitude regarding the recent developments. The perceived risks were dominating their view. In summary, their main concerns were: the reduction of complexity, the one-sided focus on measurable quality variables, risk selection, the threat of data manipulation and the abuse of published information by the media. An additional concern was that the impression is given that the complex construct of quality can be reduced to a few key figures, and it that it is constructed from a false message which then influences society and politics. This critical attitude is associated with the different value system and the professional self-concept that both physicians and nurses have, in comparison to the underlying principles of a market-based economy and the economic orientation of health care business.

Conclusions

The critical and negative attitude of Swiss physicians and nurses must, under all conditions, be heeded to and investigated regarding its impact on work motivation and identification with the profession. At the same time, the two professional groups are obligated to reflect upon their critical attitude and take a proactive role in the development of appropriate quality indicators for the publication of quality data in Switzerland.