Posted by Bill Sandweg on 17 September 2018.
Hospitals vary greatly in terms of the quality of their care. In some hospitals infection rates are low and few patients need to be readmitted after discharge. Exactly the opposite is true for some other hospitals. You do not want to be a patient at the hospitals with the poor record. How to get the important information about a hospital is a thorny issue.
State laws do not require hospitals to report all of the information you as a potential patient would like to know. Some states require reports to the state health department about certain events, such as highly contagious diseases, for example, but often that information is not available to the general public. Other helpful information, if required to be reported at all, is similarly hidden from view.
The federal government, on the other hand, requires certain information be reported to it concerning Medicare patients. It makes this information available to the public on its web site, which enables patients to make general comparisons of hospitals. Here is a link to the Hospital Compare web site home. Unfortunately, the federal government does not require hospitals to report on patients who are privately insured or who pay cash. Congress could require this information but the hospital industry, with its strong lobby, has prevented such legislation.
As with many other aspects of our lives, there are on line companies that would like to help us. In 2007, the medical journal JAMA published a comparison of six hospital comparison web sites: Medicare’s site linked above, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’s survey, the Leapfrog Group and three proprietary for profit sites whose identity JAMA did not disclose. The conclusion of the authors was that there was still, in 2007, a long way to go in creating an effective comparison site.
I took a look at the Leapfrog Group’s web site. The group asks hospitals to voluntarily disclose information about areas of patient interest such as infection rates, services available, medication errors, complications, etc. Here is a link to its compare page. I looked at its comparison page for data on Phoenix area hospitals and found that some major players, such as Banner Health, elected not to participate. This makes the comparison page less valuable as some of the Banner hospitals are very good ones I would consider if in need and for which I would like to see some data.
In any event, some data is better than no data and a good consumer should look for all available data before making a decision as important as where to be hospitalized for almost any medical procedure.
One of the especially good points made by the JAMA article was the need to involve the surgeon in any discussion about the relative merits of the hospitals under consideration for a surgical procedure.
Good luck with that surgery.