Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Using Data on Health Care Providers to Make Us Better Consumers; FOCUS ON HEALTH CARE

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Using Data on Health Care Providers to Make Us Better Consumers; FOCUS ON HEALTH CARE

Article excerpt

Let's say you break your hip. How would you choose the surgeon who will repair the injury?

Chances are you will ask family and friends for recommendations, experts say.

Yet, an overwhelming amount of data on hospital and providers does exist, but it's not always the easiest to find or interpret.

"The way that our system meaning health care in the United States produces information on quality and cost is very poor," says Dave Dillon, spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association.

The site most health care experts say to access first is Hospital Compare. It's a large bank of data run by the federal government that allows consumers to compare hospitals side-by-side.

"It is frankly the only apples-to-apples comparison of delivered quality across the board," Dillon says.

You can find it at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare.

The site provides survey results of previous patients' experiences, the timeliness of effective care, surgical complications, deaths, health care associated infections and more.

The data can drill down deeper within those categories. For example, under surgical complications, an interested consumer can see the percentage of patients that were given antibiotics at the "right time" before surgery (within one hour before the procedure).

And under the tab for timely and effective care, a consumer can see the average wait times at a particular hospital's emergency department.

The federal government's Hospital Compare site is just one avenue for a consumer to evaluate quality. Missouri offers another.

Missouri's Department of Health & Senior Services tracks health care associated infections that is, infections patients acquire while in the hospital. That data is available to the public at health.mo.gov/data/hai/.

The site identifies how many infections occurred at a particular Missouri hospital for patients undergoing a hip replacement, coronary artery bypass and abdominal hysterectomy; it also provides infection rates for broader categories within the hospital.

A separate state agency in Missouri, and in a separate online location, tracks disciplinary actions that were taken against doctors in the state. …

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