New Hospital Comparisons Available from HHS

Health consumers can find out significantly more about the quality of care at their local hospital(s) as a result of the US Department of Heath and Human Services recent update of its Hospital Compare website, which has searchable data on outpatient surgical infections, heart attack treatment success rates, and more.

Data released this summer, for example, according to a report in The Palm Beach Post, “appeared to bolster that argument, at least for heart attack patients,” which showed “a drop in the national 30-day mortality rate for heart attacks of 0.4 percent to 16.2 percent for the three fiscal years of 2006-09.”

Also, the new healthcare law will “likely” give the comparison data “even greater weight” because some of the information may be used to calculate hospitals’ reimbursements after 2013.

The Hill ‘s “Healthwatch” blog reports, “the online tool that lets users analyze and compare data on patient care from more than 4,700 hospitals across the country.”

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that “thanks to this new update this year, for the first time, Medicare patients can see how efficiently facilities use certain types of imaging equipment and keep them safe from exposure to potentially harmful radiation that may not be necessary.”

Modern Healthcare notes that new additions to the website “include four measures related to use – or overuse – of medical imaging; two measures related to antibiotic administration in outpatient surgery patients; and four measures related to outpatient care during possible heart attacks.”

Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch reports Hospital Compare, available since 2003, “traditionally” has focused on “inpatient care,” and the hospitals get a chance to see the data before they are posted – but that the additional data now available will help hospitals and consumers compare care at local or regional hospitals.

This is good because comparison data show variations across both hospitals and regions of the country. For example, according to Dr. Barry Straube, CMS’ chief medical officer, the data show “hospitals with higher heart-attack and heart-failure death rates are concentrated in the South.”

The Boston Globe reports, “Massachusetts hospitals as a whole outperform hospitals across the country on the quality of outpatient care, including providing fast treatment to emergency room patients with chest pain and protecting surgery patients from infections.”

The Hartford Courant reports that “on average, Connecticut hospitals performed better than the national average in nearly all measures,” including “the number of minutes before outpatients with chest pain get an electrocardiogram.”

Straube also said the “goal here is not to label hospitals as good or bad, but it’s to provide insight to the hospitals as well as the general public on what they are achieving in the care that they render through Medicare and other programs.”

While the San Antonio Express-News reports that while San Antonio, TX, “hospitals as a group did fairly well, most had at least one area of concern.”

On the issue of how many patients got a second mammogram or ultrasound within 45 days of a screening mammogram, the government said “the best hospitals” tend to have a rate between 8 percent and 14 percent, “indicating enough – but not too much – follow-up.”

Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning News reports “doctors at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas are prescribing a higher-than-average percentage of follow-up mammograms.”

You can learn more about your local hospitals here.

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