Hospital Comparison Web Sites Still Developing
Hospital quality comparison Web sites still are relatively simplistic and have yet to have a significant impact, but consumer choice advocates say the sites will become broader and more sophisticated and will be used by more patients, the San Francisco Business Times reports.
While anecdotal evidence suggests that few health consumers are using online comparison tools, "it's a growing field" that likely will start paying off, Ted von Glahn, director of consumer engagement for the Pacific Business Group on Health, said.
Enrollee-specific Web sites from large national health plans, such as Aetna, Cigna and UnitedHealthcare, are growing in popularity and are beginning to include cost and quality information, von Glahn said. Other Web sites, such as CMS' Hospital Compare site and Health Grades' quality-comparison tool, only compare a few quality measures and do not take into account the level of insurance coverage consumers might have.
CalHospitalCompare.org -- the California HealthCare Foundation's hospital comparison Web site, which looked to expand on the depth of data on CMS' Web site -- had an initial surge of visitors when the site was created last month, but the number of visitors has decreased to about 500 daily, according to Maribeth Shannon, a program director for CHCF.
Shannon noted that the site is not intended only for consumers but also for hospital board members, the fundraising community and experts. She added that the site could have an impact if hospitals' board members are embarrassed by their facilities' poor performance ratings, the Business Times reports.
Most of the Web sites do not compare costs or consider insurance coverage or physician preferences. However, Vimo -- a portal for comparing the prices of health care products and services -- on its Web site includes procedure-specific costs from Medicare data and private databases and additional analysis and algorithms to help understand the data, Kurt Stammberger, vice president of content and services, said.
CMS in the next few years plans to add data on clinical outcomes, cost and efficiency to its Web site, Jeff Flick, CMS administrator on the West Coast, said (Rauber, San Francisco Business Times, 4/13).
CHCF is the publisher of California Healthline.