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Feds Launch Hospital Quality Comparisons

Database Rates Quality of Care for Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, and Pneumonia
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The database was launched after years of hesitation from hospital and provider groups. Medicare, which has similar programs for nursing homes and home health providers, first attempted a hospital database two years ago. But it ran into resistance when many facilities could not agree on which measures to make public.

Supporters expressed hope that the program would also influence business decisions by health insurers and employers. "It would be our hope that we'd see a movement toward the high-quality providers and away from the low-quality [ones]," said Gerry Shea, director of governmental affairs for the AFL-CIO.

Dick Davidson, president of the American Hospital Association, called the program "a breakthrough."

Arthur A. Levin, director of the New York-based Center for Medical Consumers advocacy group, called the hospital database a "good principle" because it will influence hospitals to compete to show that they are providing higher standards of care.

But Levin also characterized the program as "baby steps" for focusing on individual parts of care instead of providing information on hospital mortality rates or overall cure rates for the three diseases covered.

"I think what people really want is outcome measures. Single parts of the process are a little beside the point for most of us. There's a collection of things that need to be done to get a single good outcome," he tells WebMD.

Davidson said that hospitals are interested in being "very open" about more global measures of quality including mortality rates. "We think we need to move more in that direction," he says.

The database is accessible at www.HospitalCompare.hhs.govwww.HospitalCompare.hhs.gov.

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