Hospital Mortality Rates To Go Online Beginning in June
CMS in June will post the first broad comparison of hospital mortality rates for heart attack and heart failure in Medicare beneficiaries on the Hospital Compare Web site, USA Today reports. Hospital mortality rates currently "are among the best-kept secrets in American medicine" and remain "closely guarded," according to USA Today.
The Web site will include information on whether the 30-day mortality rates for the conditions at more than 4,000 hospitals nationwide are higher than, lower than or equal to the national average.
CMS calculated the mortality rates based on heart attack and heart failure patients who died for any reason within 30 days of admission to hospitals between July 2005 and June 2006. According to confidential data obtained by USA Today, only 17 of 4,477 hospitals had mortality rates for heart attack that were lower than the national average, and only 38 had mortality rates for heart failure that were higher than the national average.
However, the Web site will not include specific information on mortality rates for the conditions at individual hospitals.
"CMS has chosen to highlight a small percentage of hospitals with the best and worst performance compared with the national death rate" because of concerns about the "potential backlash from hospitals fearful that a mediocre report card will drive patients away," USA Today reports.
CMS also will not take corrective action against hospitals with mortality rates for the conditions that are higher that the national average, but agency officials hope that the Web site will prompt such facilities to address the issue.
Michael Rapp, CMS director of quality measurement, said, "If I'm running a hospital, and I see that I fall in a category that's worse than 98% of hospitals, that's going to grab my attention."
Some physicians and hospital officials have raised concerns that the Web site fails to "give enough weight to how sick, poor, rural or urban their patients are," USA Today reports.
Steven Nissen, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, said, "I feel strongly that the public has a right to see how hospitals and physicians perform," adding, "It's got to be done carefully. If not, it can backfire, and the whole system can fall down."
In addition, consumer advocates have raised concerns about the lack of specific information on mortality rates for heart attack and heart failure at individual hospitals.
Minna Jung, an expert on health care quality at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said, "As a consumer, I would want to know if my hospital has higher death rates than the hospital across town" (Sternberg/DeBarros, USA Today, 5/23).
In related news, USA Today on Wednesday examined how increased "amounts of information on hospital performance are a mouse-click away, thanks to the Internet's limitless capacity and a bold consensus that transparency serves hospitals and consumers."
According to USA Today, although "not everyone is releasing the same amount of information, the movement toward transparency is spreading quickly" nationwide through efforts by the federal government, some states, a number of hospitals and groups such as the Hospital Quality Alliance and National Quality Forum (Sternberg, USA Today, 5/23).