Hospital Compare Web Site Raises Questions About Public Value
A Web site created by HHS to let people view and compare cardiac care performance at more than 4,000 hospitals nationwide demonstrates how "difficult it is for consumers to compare hospital care," the Washington Post reports.
The Web site, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, compares hospitals on treatment of heart attacks and heart failure and rates hospitals based on the number of patients who died within 30 days of being admitted to a hospital. Hospitals are rated as average, above average or below average, but no actual numbers are provided. A note on the Web site states that "comparisons based on estimated death (mortality) rates alone can be misleading."
Of the 4,500 hospitals compared on the site for treatment of heart attacks, 17 were rated above average and seven were below average. For treatment of heart failure, 4,807 hospitals were compared; 38 were listed as above average and 35 were rated below average, while 4,734 hospitals had mortality rates "no different than the U.S. national rate," according to the Web site.
"Experts generally applauded" efforts to improve transparency of the hospital industry, but others feel more could be done to inform patients about quality of care, according to the Post.
Janis Orlowski, chief medical officer at Washington Hospital Center, said, "I'm one of the people who think that we should have more data available to the public, but being in a category with 99% of the hospitals in America doesn't help (people) discriminate." Orlowski added, "I'm not sure that I would recommend to my patients, for example, that they go online and look at the data at this point in making a health care choice."
Gary Filerman, chair of the health systems administration department at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, said the Web site "drives transparency into the hospital system," adding, "It is a very positive development provided that it's quality information and provided that it's easily digestible by the appropriate audience and the people use it." However, Filerman said, "It's very difficult for consumers to interpret the significance of some of the (current) measures."
The Web site also lists statistics for individual hospitals, such as how many heart attack patients received aspirin. CMS later this year plans to add to the site mortality rates for other conditions, including pneumonia (Gerber, Washington Post, 7/3).