Hospital Quality Measurements Available Through Public, Web-Based Database
By Shannon McAllister, iSixSigma Staff Writer
Hospitals in the United States may be more motivated to improve the quality of their services because of the recent launch by a federal agency of a free, public web site that provides comparative performance data about these institutions.
On April 1, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov), an online database with which consumers, quality professionals and even hospital administrations can determine how individual hospitals perform compared with each other and with state and national averages. In developing the Hospital Compare web site, CMS worked with the Hospital Quality Alliance, a public-private collaboration of groups representing consumers, hospitals, doctors, employers, accrediting organizations and federal agencies.
Nearly 4,200 participating hospitals voluntarily offer data that covers three major treatment services – heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. The information covers 17 common quality measures in treating these conditions, the most common and costly situations that hospitals address. The quality measures are based on the recommended treatments shown to give the best results to most adults with these ailments. Eventually, the site plans to add data on other conditions and procedures, such as measures to prevent surgical infection. Users can search the database by hospital name, state, county, city or ZIP code, and can specify the quality measures within their search.
While the data is helpful in enabling consumers to make more informed decisions about their healthcare providers, the information reported on Hospital Compare is expected to spur institutions to pay closer attention to the quality of their services and seek help to improve them.
“Reporting valid, reliable and comparable quality measures will encourage clinicians and providers to improve the quality of the care they provide,” said Dick Davidson, president of the American Hospital Association. “This voluntary reporting initiative is a significant step toward not only a more informed public, but also sustained health care quality improvement.”
The Wall Street Journal reported that quality performance could eventually be a determining factor in government payments, a concept that would reward better quality in the hospital system. It is no secret that patient readmissions linked to poor initial care are costly for the government. Tying quality performance to government payments, along with the increasing pressure on hospitals to reduce critical medical errors and speed the adoption of proven treatments, could further motivate institutions to focus on quality.
Hospital Compare offers information about data collection tools and methods used to create the database. The web site does not rank hospitals, per se, but commercial ventures could potentially use the information that way. One such organization, HealthGrades.com, plans to apply the data to its rating system.