New Jersey Health Department Issues Hospital Quality Report Cards
The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services on Thursday issued a report card that rates how the state's hospitals care for patients with heart attacks or pneumonia, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Goldstein, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/2). Since January 2003, the state health department has required hospitals to submit quality of care information, such as whether they provide certain medications within 24 hours of such patients' arrivals and offer them pneumonia vaccinations. Hospitals previously submitted such information only to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, which accredits hospitals nationwide, and CMS. The New Jersey Hospital Association and individual hospitals helped the state develop the report card plans (American Health Line, 8/13/03). On heart attack care, hospitals were rated on five criteria: if patients were given aspirin upon arrival; aspirin upon discharge; beta blocker on arrival; beta blocker on discharge; and an Ace inhibitor on discharge. For pneumonia, hospitals were judged on three criteria: if patients were given an oxygen assessment; pneumonia vaccination screening; and antibiotics within four hours of arrival (Campbell, Newark Star-Ledger, 7/2). The best score a hospital could receive was 100, meaning that every pneumonia or heart attack patient was given appropriate care (Layton, Bergen Record, 7/2). According to the Star-Ledger, the report "found wide variation among New Jersey's 82 acute care hospitals," with some providing the treatments routinely and scoring near 100. Other hospitals administered the proper treatments to patients 60% or 70% of the time (Newark Star-Ledger, 7/2). Half of the state's institutions provided correct care to nine of 10 patients.
Health officials praised the report card as a method to educate patients and help the state's hospitals "compare their performances and upgrade treatment," the Record reports (Bergen Record, 7/2). Clifton Lacy, commissioner of the state DHSS, said, "This report is one part of our department's efforts to improve the quality of hospital care in New Jersey." Ron Czajkowski, a spokesperson for NJHA, said, "Doing something wrong or doing it not well always comes with a higher price tag. Improved quality means improved efficiency, which leads to reduced costs" (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/2). However, Lacy said, "This is a snapshot in time. What consumers should be looking at is comparing data from year to year to look at performance improvement." Arthur Levin, executive director of the Center for Medical Consumers in New York City, said, "The most critical benefit [of the report card] is it breaks the silence barrier and it gets the hospitals who are not doing well to improve their performance" (Bergen Record, 7/2). The report is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.