Wall Street Journal Examines Hospital Quality

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Hospital Quality

Consumers "have access to a growing range of data on hospital quality" published online, the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Journal,so-called best practices information -- which could represent the"biggest category" of available hospital quality data -- tracks whetherhospitals follow recommended guidelines for some procedures.

Possibly the "best-known source" for hospital data is Hospital Compare, a joint effort by CMS,hospitals and other groups that lets consumers search by city, state orother criteria and look up a variety of statistics comparing more than5,000 hospitals to one another, as well as to state and nationwideaverages.

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Health care experts note that private and publicorganizations providing such data focus only on processes and not onpatient outcomes. In addition, most of the best-practices data focus onheart attack, pneumonia and surgery care.

Some states --including New York and Pennsylvania -- publish online outcomes data forcertain procedures at hospitals. Denise Love, executive director of theNational Association of Health Data Organizations,said many states collect data for public health or other uses, but onlyabout 20 provide public quality reports that consumers can access.

The private company Health Gradesrates physicians and hospitals on 32 conditions and procedures andincludes data from more than 5,000 large hospitals nationwide. HealthGrades also uses Medicare billing data to provide specific percentagesof complications or death rates.

"Although online tools makehospital comparisons more thorough than ever," health care experts sayconsumers should not rely on such data alone, the Journal reports. According to John Connolly -- president and CEO of Connolly Medical,which publishes lists of top physicians -- "What most consumers have torely on is not hard data." Connolly added, "Reputation becomes probablythe most important thing consumers rely on" (Francis, Wall Street Journal, 7/10).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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