Consumers in the United States are taking advantage of the proliferation of publicly available, internet-based performance reports and quality appraisals of health plans, healthcare organizations, hospitals, and physicians to aid in their healthcare decision making. However, these appraisal practices have given rise to controversy and debate over certain distinctive ethical issues. This article advocates a standardized ethical framework to guide current and future development and implementation of performance reports. This framework, which would resolve a number of the major issues, includes the following ethical principles to guide the practice of public reporting on the Internet and facilitate enhanced quality improvement in the healthcare industry: legitimacy, data integrity and quality, transparency, informed understanding, equity, privacy and confidentiality, collaboration, accountability, and evaluation and continuous improvement.
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