Prior to CMS's release, these documents were available only after members of the public or news media filed Freedom of Information Act or state public records requests.
"It was a time-consuming process, and there would be no way to compare (various hospitals or regions of the country) except by spending a lot of time and spending many hours creating spreadsheets, and creating data tools to do that," Ornstein says. "What we wanted to do was make this easy for the public to access these reports."
The new database does not include documents about results of complaint investigations involving psychiatric hospitals or long-term care facilities. Routine inspection reports are also not included. However Ornstein's group said it was working to get disclosure of those files as well.
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Ornstein also said that the database would be updated quarterly.
In response to questions on Saturday, CMS spokeswoman Kathryn Ceja said in an e-mail, that the agency released the data with AHCJ because the government wants to "promote an informed citizenry, patient engagement in healthcare, quality improvement on the part of providers, and transparency in government."
She added that the release of these reports about acute care, including critical access hospitals, follows the release last year of a similar searchable database on nursing homes.