[Welcome Kaiser Network readers!]
Transparency in health care is a recurring theme here at IB, usually with an emphasis on costs. But in the long run, buying the cheapest item isn't always (or even usually) the least expensive route. So we also urge carriers and providers to be more proactive in discussing how well they do, not just what they charge for doing it.
In today's McPaper, Steve Sternberg and Anthony DeBarros provide us with some encouraging news on that front:
"Until today, hospital death rates were closely guarded secrets, discussed in board rooms but beyond the reach of patients whose lives are on the line. That changed this morning when USA TODAY posted on its website the government's best estimates of heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia death rates for every U.S. hospital for two years."
And they're not kidding; click here for an interactive map for hospital mortality rates in three key categories. Very cool.
As more and more of us become "connected," tools like this will become more readily used. With so many phones and PDA's now internet-capable, I can certainly see a time in the near future where most people will have ready access to this kind of information.
As with any new tech, there will be naysayers. One of the objections we hear a lot is that tools like this are nice in the abstract, but who's going to tell the ambulance driver what hospital to race for, sirens and lights blaring? And there's some validity to this: after all, if you're coding, where you go may be important, but how quickly you get there most likely takes precedence, and that generally means which facility's closest.
Still, it's a step in the right direction. The results are helpful for the consumer, of course, but for the provider as well:
"When last summer's CMS report came out, one of the 11 hospitals in the Dallas-based system, Baylor All-Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth, was found to have a heart failure death rate of 14.6%, higher than the 11.1% average.
What leapt out of a review of the patients' records was that just 10 of 31 deaths occurred in the hospital, suggesting that some deaths were due to follow-up care by local doctors and nursing homes, says Paul Convery, Baylor's chief medical officer. "This was a signal that we have to be responsible for patients after they've left our halls."
By pinpointing problem areas, hospitals can address problems that they may not have been aware of. Armed with that kind of information, appropriate changes can be instituted, thus saving even more lives.
And that's a good thing.