HOSPITAL REPORT CARDS: New Website Has National Ratings
A new website that compares outcomes for medical procedures and diagnoses at 5,000 American hospitals has been launched by Healthcare Report Cards Inc. at HealthCareReportCards.com . Access is free, and the company, a unit of the physician practice management firm Specialty Care Network Inc., plans to sell advertising space on its site to hospitals. The Denver Post reports that the company used Health Care Financing Administration data on 36 million Medicare patients hospitalized between 1995 and 1997 and adjusted the risk profiles of each hospital's patients so that hospitals that cared for sicker patients did not receive artificially low ratings (Raabe, 10/27). Kevin Hicks, executive vice president of the Lakewook, CO-based company, said, "[C]omparing raw data is like comparing apples and bananas. Our rating system uses a proprietary model to equalize the severity of illness data ... [which] allows users to compare apples to apples with all hospitals rated" (Healthcare Report Cards release, 10/27). Hospitals with "fewer deaths than is predicted for [their] patient risk profile[s]" receive a four or five star rating, hospitals whose death rates match the projections receive three stars and hospitals with higher-than- expected death rates receive one or two stars. Currently, the site provides data on coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty, arthrectomy and outcomes on diagnoses of heart attack and heart failure. The firm plans to add orthopedic surgeries such as knee and hip replacements in the next month.
"This will be the first opportunity consumers have had to see objective data on which hospitals are really the best for specific procedures and diagnoses," said Sarah Loughran, vice president of Healthcare Report Cards. But Peg O'Keefe, spokesperson for the Colorado Hospital Association, said, "There are many caveats involved with attempting to risk-adjust the data. The data can be a starting point for a patient to ask questions, but it should not be an ending point in making a decision." She "added that the Colorado Hospital Association discourages its member hospitals from using comparison data for advertising or promotional purposes" (Denver Post, 10/27).