Skip Navigation Archive: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Archive: Agency for Healthcare Research Quality
Archive print banner

AHRQ Releases Guide to Using Its Quality Indicators for Hospital Quality Reporting and Payment

This information is for reference purposes only. It was current when produced and may now be outdated. Archive material is no longer maintained, and some links may not work. Persons with disabilities having difficulty accessing this information should contact us at: Let us know the nature of the problem, the Web address of what you want, and your contact information.

Please go to for current information.

Press Release Date: September 30, 2004

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) today announced the availability of a new guide for using the Agency's Inpatient Quality Indicators or Patient Safety Indicators to report on hospital quality or make payment decisions. The Guidance for Using the AHRQ Quality Indicators for Hospital-Level Public Reporting or Payment can be downloaded from AHRQ's Quality Indicators Web site (

AHRQ's Quality Indicators are measurement tools that were originally developed by AHRQ and researchers at the University of California at San Francisco and Stanford University to help individual hospitals use their own discharge data to better understand and improve the care they provide. Hospitals and hospital associations have used them extensively for this purpose. More recently, the indicators have been used by state data organizations, employers, health plans and others seeking to improve quality through public reporting and pay-for-performance initiatives. Given the expanding use and interest in the Quality Indicators, AHRQ created the guide to help answer questions about if, when, and how to use them for these new purposes.

"Improving the quality of America's health care system is a key priority for AHRQ, and the new guide will help those designing public reporting and payment initiatives identify measures that fit their local priorities and needs," said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. "While the Quality Indicators aren't a one-size-fits-all solution and must be used carefully, they can help local hospitals and their communities use data right now to evaluate performance and ultimately provide better care."

The Quality Indicators measure outcomes that are of interest to consumers, such as patient safety and complication rates. The indicators also are based on data that hospitals already collect, which makes their use relatively accessible and inexpensive.

This guide is the first in a series of activities that will help users evaluate which individual indicators or groups of indicators they may want to incorporate into their local quality reporting or payment programs. The new guide helps users customize their use of the Quality Indicators, for example, if they wish to place greater or lesser emphasis on cardiac care, if they are in markets with a large or small number of high-volume hospitals, or if hospitals in their area have large variations in the quality of their data. The guide also suggests ways to best use the Quality Indicators, such as pairing data on deaths and volume indicators or using multiple years of data.

"The Quality Indicators are a boon to purchasers, consumers, and providers looking for insight into the quality of care provided in hospitals," said Christopher Queram, CEO of Employer Health Care Alliance Cooperative in Madison, WI. "In our experience, using the Quality Indicators to compare hospital performance has been a powerful tool to drive health care improvement."

For more information on AHRQ's Quality Indicators, go to

For more information, please contact AHRQ Public Affairs:(301) 427-1855 or (301) 427-1865.


The information on this page is archived and provided for reference purposes only.


AHRQ Advancing Excellence in Health Care