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Comparing Hospitals a New Government Website

The federal government has launched the first website that allows patients to compare hospitals in their area before selecting where to seek treatment. While there are still no sites that tell patients about individual doctors care, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov is a good first step towards the goal of encouraging hospitals to become more competitive on the quality and customer service fronts.

Until now, this sort of data has been widely unavailable, because hospitals and other health care providers have been resistant to publishing detailed outcome data. But this collaborative effort from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Hospital Quality Alliance offers a good snapshot of how well hospitals provide certain types of care.

The site pulls together data from 2,500 different hospitals across the United States on 26 performance measures. Data is available regarding broad treatment categories like Heart Attack Process of Care Measures and Prevention of Surgical Infection Process of Care Measures, as customer service categories like Pain Control and Overall Satisfaction. Also included is a comparison of the hospital’s mortality rate with the United States National Rate.

The new site is still in the developmental stages and future plans include creating a greater number of comparison criteria for more illnesses. For instance, the group plans to introduce comparisons of average pneumonia death rates for each hospital by July.

Measuring Patient Satisfaction

Hospitals have never really done a great job of measuring patient satisfaction. In fact, of all the things that studies have measured, patient satisfaction is the one area that is clearly lacking. Patient satisfaction has never before been factored into the annual rankings of the U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Hospitals rankings either. But along with the website, a survey called Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) is being rolled out.

Hospitals are under no obligation to participate, but the federal government hopes that the voluntary participation in this survey will lead to better patient care. The survey – which measures things like how patients were treated by doctors, how often nurses checked in, how pain was managed, and 19 other variables – will be sent to all adult patients who spent at least one night in the hospital within six weeks of discharge. At the end of the year, hospitals will submit their data from the 22 question survey to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Servise.