Hospital death rates posted online

American Health Lawyers Association

August 21, 2008 

In continuing coverage from yesterday's edition of Health and Life Sciences Law Daily, ABC World News (8/20, story 8, 2:25, Gibson) covered both sides of the debate after the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released information on hospital death rates, noting hospital administrators' concerns the data may be misleading and proponents arguments in favor of educating consumers. Dr. Janet Corrigan of the National Quality Forum said, "For the first time, you can compare the quality of a hospital on one side of town in your community, to a hospital on the other side of town." ABC added, "Here in New York, where the government has been publicly releasing mortality rates on individual heart surgeons since 1989, there have been some studies suggesting doctors may sometimes be refusing to operate because they don't want to jeopardize their scores. Proponents say that ultimately releasing this data will be good for patients and for hospitals, providing them with a very public incentive to improve."

On its website, CNN (8/21) reports the Hospital Compare website "is designed to benefit both patients and hospitals." CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems said, "CMS's goal for updating and enhancing the Hospital Compare Website is to provide usable and accurate information about hospital performance to providers and communities that will encourage hospitals to excel in the quality of care they provide."

Judith Graham in her Triage blog for the Chicago Tribune (8/21) writes, "It's a big step forward in making information about the quality of care in hospitals available to consumers." After describing how the new information assessed local hospitals Graham notes American Hospital Association president Rich Umbdenstock "said the newly-released data will help hospitals improve care and should become a starting point for 'an open and honest dialogue' between patients and their physicians."

Facilities that scored the highest in patient "recommendation category included San Ramon Regional Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center in Burlingame, and Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City," California, noted AHN (8/21, Sharma). California's JohnMuirMedicalCenter "is one of only four hospitals in California and 41 nationwide to receive a top ranking" for pneumonia death rates. And, "four Illinois hospitals had impressively low death rates; three hospitals had unexpectedly high death rates."

Modern Healthcare (8/20) quoted Weems as saying, "This information will also serve as a benchmark so Medicare beneficiaries and other consumers can determine on a year-by-year basis whether their hospital is improving for these important outcome measures." It all "adds up to better quality of care and better value for Medicare patients -- and ultimately all patients," Weems concluded. The following outlets detail their respective state hospital's figures: Florida's Palm Beach Post (8/20, Galewitz), Michigan's Grand Rapids Press (8/20, Shellenbarger), Ohio's Plain Dealer (8/20, Mazzolini), California's Contra Costa Times (8/20, Kleffman), Texas's Fort Worth Star Telegram (8/21, Smith), and New Hampshire's Nashua Telegraph (8/21, Brooks).

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