On April 1, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov was launched by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Hospital Quality Alliance (HQA). HQA was created in December 2002 by the American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, and Association of American Medical Colleges. "The HQA effort is intended to make it easier for the consumer to make informed healthcare decisions, and to support efforts to improve quality in U.S. hospitals," according to the Web site. So does it?
Yes, although it’s currently limited to the three diagnoses-heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia-that constitute the majority of hospitalizations for adults. What you see at the Web site are quality measures on how often hospitals provide some of the recommended care to get the best results for most patients. There are 17 measures for these three diagnoses that represent the "best practices" accepted by care-givers throughout the many levels needed to aid in a patient’s full and speedy recovery. Examples include:
- Percent of heart attack patients given beta blocker at arrival.
- Percent(s) of heart attack patients given aspirin at arrival (and discharge).
- Percents of heart attack/heart failure/ pneumonia patients given adult smoking cessation advice/counseling.
In all cases, the best rating is 100 percent. If you have an opportunity to review the Peoria area hospitals, you’ll note they score above the state and national averages. In an April 7 Journal Star article, Rick Anderson, M.D., chief quality officer and director of medical affairs at Methodist Medical Center, stated, "If someone is looking to compare the three (Peoria) hospitals…I think they will have a hard time-they’re very close." In that same article, according to Dave Gorenz, M.D., assistant administrator of regional development at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, "I think the major value that I see is that all of these indicators… have a standard way of being measured. It allows you to look at where you are today and put in improvement plans." So reporting these measures can be a win-win situation for both the consumers and the care-providers.
For each of the 17 measures, there also is a lay person’s explanation as to why that measure is important. Here’s an excellent example for percent of heart attack patients given a beta blocker at arrival: "Beta blockers are a type of medicine that is used to lower blood pressure, treat chest pain (angina) and heart failure, and to help prevent a heart attack. Beta blockers relieve the stress on the heart by slowing the heart rate and reducing the force with which the heart muscle contracts (to pump blood). Most heart attack patients should be given a beta blocker within 24 hours of arriving at the hospital."
CMS and HQA plan to expand the number of measures to nearly 500 during the next several years. The partnerships and alliances formed among hospitals, physicians, insurance companies, and their respective associations in the past six years-since the Institute of Medicine’s initial report of the "Quality Chasm" contending there were at least 200,000 deaths in hospitals that were avoidable each year-is refreshing and bodes well for consumers who may become patients at some point. And it’s heartening to know how well served the greater Peoria area is by our hospitals and medical staffs. IBI