The Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL)
July 30, 2012
If doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and healthcare consumer advocates graded hospital ratings’ reports, they likely would give them an “I” for incomplete.
“Transparency is a good thing,” said Paul Pedersen, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of OSF St. Joseph Medical Center in Bloomington, IL. Consumers should be able to see and understand information about patient safety, he said. “But transparency is in its infancy,” he added, meaning there are errors in how some information is collected and presented.
“Advocate favors transparency regarding clinical outcomes and patient safety,” said Wayne McBride, M.D., vice president of medical management at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, IL. Comparisons among hospitals can promote improvements, which helps the health and safety of patients, he added, “but we are concerned about some sources of data.”
Hospitals are under pressure to share more information, and there has been an increasing number of hospital ratings’ reports to satisfy the public’s appetite for data. Consumer Reports and the Leapfrog Group, an organization run by purchasers of health benefits, released the latest hospital safety scores.
None of the reports is perfect, medical professionals agree. They all look at slightly different data and slightly different time frames. “I’m not sure there is a single source that best illustrates the quality of care for inpatients and outpatients,” said Derek Robinson, M.D., executive director of the Illinois Hospital Association’s Quality Care Institute. “Our current state of quality measures I would describe as immature. We’re on a journey.”
Ann Frederick, Advocate BroMenn director of quality and resource management, admitted, “Regardless of the level of sophistication, there is something we can learn from every report.”
Even though the reports aren’t perfect, they serve an important role, said healthcare consumer advocate Jim Duffett, executive director of the Campaign for Better Health Care. “Hospital evaluations are a positive thing because they put pressure on institutions to improve,” he said.
Some reports look at services offered, some look at processes, and some look at patient outcomes. Some hospitals, in reporting information, interpret questions differently, meaning answers may not compare apples to apples. “Each one of these reports is a snapshot,” said Debbie Dalton, St. Joseph director of quality resource management. “They don’t show a trend.”
For example, St. Joseph and BroMenn took issue with the recent Consumer Reports study. Unlike several previous hospital safety reports, neither hospital fared well. “Consumer Reports is a good magazine,” Pedersen said. “But some of the information in Consumer Reports was 2008-2009 data. Would you buy a 2012 car using 2008 data? Of course not.”
Duffett defended Consumer Reports, saying its publisher, Consumers Union, is “a neutral and aggressive entity.”
Medical professionals wouldn’t list which reports are good and which aren’t. But they agreed that Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov) provides good data. They also said that eventually, the reports will get better, which can only help the quality and safety of healthcare.
“With all the efforts that are under way, we will see improvements over time,” Robinson said. “Hospitals already are moving in that direction.”
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