May 21, 2008 -- Newspapers across the country are carrying ads today promoting a government-run web site comparing the quality of U.S. hospitals.
The ads, which cost taxpayers $1.9 million, are meant to steer readers toward the "Hospital Compare" site run by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Kerry Weems, the acting administrator of Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, says the site aims "to drive the quality of health care up, drive costs down, and give consumers a choice."
"We want to drive people to the web site to make sure that they know it's there and make sure that they know even in their own community there are differences in hospitals, differences in quality," Weems says.
Weems says ads in local papers in all 50 states would identify hospitals in those communities and compare their performance on two measures: overall patient satisfaction and how often the hospital meets recommendations to administer antibiotics one hour before surgery.
The practice is known to reduce the risk of infections related to surgery.
The site, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, compares about 2,500 U.S. hospitals according to how often they meet 26 performance measures, based on Medicare data. The site was first launched in 2005 and was relaunched in late March of this year with data from patient satisfaction surveys.
Hospitals are usually compared on process measures, not on how many patients survive procedures or illnesses. For instance, hospitals are rated on how often heart attack patients receive aspirin but not on the percentage of those patients who survive their episodes.
Weems said officials would add a measure in June comparing hospitals on pneumonia mortality.