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HealthGrades Report on Hospital Quality

By October 23, 2015Commentary

A number of sources are attempting to provide consumers with usable information on provider costs and quality, which is a difficult task.  HealthGrades, which is in that business, offers some information from an analysis of quality variations among hospitals.  (HealthGrades Report)  Using Medicare data and all-payer information in the states where it is available, the analysis reveals that within most geographies there does appear to be a substantial difference in outcomes which may be indicators of quality of care.  For example in Denver, the complication rate for hip replacement procedures varied from 3.9% to 13.6%.  According to the rating system HealthGrades uses, these differences are important for consumers to be aware of.  On a 5 star rating system relating to outcomes, from 2012 to 2014, patients who received care at a 5 star hospital were 71% less likely to die and 65% less likely to have a complication than patients getting care at a one star facility.  “Brand-name” hospitals in a region don’t always have the best ratings, so consumers should be wary of the marketing from these high-powered systems.  And it can be hard to find a good facility by these measures, for example, in Chicago, only 2 out of 46 hospitals that do coronary artery bypass grafts have a 5 star rating.  There is wide variation across various common conditions at the same facility as well, which means that consumers can’t assume that because a hospital has a five-star rating on one condition that it has good quality outcomes on others.  As the analysis points out, consumers need to be directed toward a few meaningful outcomes that can be easily standardized across facilities and they need to get the information in an easy to understand format.  The more consumers do these searches before getting care, the more likely poorer performing hospitals will feel pressure to improve.

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