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Hospital Performance? Show Me Some Data!

Jeremy Olson has another excellent health-related piece in the Pioneer-Press:

How good is a hospital? A fresh gauge may offer some insight Medicare casts a public spotlight on select death and readmission rates

Medicare took a significant step in health care's so-called transparency movement this month by publishing death and readmission rates for all U.S. hospitals treating patients for heart failure, heart attacks or pneumonia.

While the data is mostly favorable for Minnesota -- only four hospitals in the state had rates below national averages on any of the measures -- its publication pushes many hospital officials beyond their comfort zone when it comes to public scrutiny of their performances.

It's one thing to publicly report "process" measures, such as how often hospitals prescribe aspirin to heart attack patients upon discharge. It's another to report the actual percentage of patients who die or return to the hospital within 30 days, an indicator the facility did not do a good enough job the first time.

Whether the public uses this information, it captures the attention of hospital leaders, said Dr. David Abelson, president of Park Nicollet Health Services. "It is highly motivating to us and to other health care organizations," he said.

Ten Minnesota hospitals reported death or readmission rates that were better than national averages. Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park had low death rates for all three conditions and a low readmission rate for heart failure. The Park Nicollet affiliate was one of 10 U.S. hospitals to be above average in four of the six Medicare measures of mortality and readmission.

For now, the publication of these results only affects a hospital's reputation, but it may soon affect a hospital's finances, too. While much of the health care reform debate in Washington focuses on expanding coverage to the nation's uninsured, lawmakers also want to encourage better care overall.

Search the U.S. Hospital Death and Readmission Rates database here.

Example of the kind of data that can be retrieved:


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