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Medicare & Medicaid News

Hospital Compare Has Lots of Info, Too Similar to Make Easy Decisions

Hospitals nationwide have achieved 98% compliance with reporting data, likely represents a substantial improvement in systems and safety

By Stephanie Stephens, HBNS Contributing Writer

March 22, 2014 - There is good news and not-so-good news about Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, designed to help patients choose hospitals with the best quality rating matching their need. The good news is that an amazing 98 percent of hospitals are participating. On the downside, however, patients can’t distinguish the quality of performance of one hospital from another.

The results of this new study share reported in Health Services Research.

 “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website,’s Hospital Compare, seeks to provide patients with actionable, relevant information regarding the quality of the health care providers in their own area,” said lead study author Kyan Cyrus Safavi, M.D., M.B.A. at Yale University School of Medicine.


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Safavi and his co-authors wondered whether Hospital Compare’s ratings allowed patients to distinguish a top-performing hospital in a local area, and then “to make an intelligent data-driven decision.”

“Since it’s important to empower patients to make better decisions about where they seek care, we wanted to know more about how that process is really going - and what kind of data they really see,” he added.

On the Hospital Compare website, patients have access to data about a collection of surgical process of care measures from the Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP), Safavi explained. SCIP is a national partnership of organizations interested in improving surgical care by significantly reducing surgical complications, in particular, surgical site infections.

The researchers found that the nearly 3,000 hospitals across the U.S that reported SCIP data, generally performed well with little variation, making it difficult for patients to differentiate between hospitals in their region.

“The pattern held across many diverse regional geographic areas nationwide,” Safavi said.

“Patients use this type of data frequently, especially when making decisions about elective or semi-elective surgeries. There’s a missed opportunity to provide those patients with more transparent and reliable information to better influence their decision-making.”

Steps to the Information

>> Click on Hospital Compare

>> Enter your Zip, City of State (to compare hospitals)

>> Click on boxes beside 3 hospitals you want to check

>> Go to bottom of the page and click green button “Compare Now”

>> Click on tab for Readmissions, Complications and Deaths

>> Read down list of choices and click Healthcare Associated Infections

>> Information drops in below – read down list to find information

Measuring other processes of care, however, can help patients distinguish between hospitals, he said. “For example, what is the organization and safety of the operating environment, and how much attention is a hospital paying to post-surgical wound care? Hospital outcomes can also distinguish quality.”

Richard P. Dutton, M.D., M.B.A. and executive director of the Anesthesia Quality Institute, agreed that more attention could be paid to the bigger picture.

“This article illustrates a common pitfall with public reporting: measures that can be documented and risk adjusted adequately to support fair publication may represent only a small factor in the patient’s outcome,” he said.

More from Medicare

> Check out Hospital Compare’s adaptive design on your smartphone or tablet!

> Compare Other Providers and Plans

> Visit Physician Compare - Opens in a new window to learn what hospitals your physicians and other healthcare professionals are affiliated with.

> Nursing Home Compare - Opens in a new window

> Home Health Compare - Opens in a new window

> Dialysis Facility Compare - Opens in a new window

> Medicare Plan Finder - Opens in a new window

> Supplier Directory

“Things that matter more, such as perioperative mortality [mortality during admission, anesthesia, surgery and recovery], or the actual occurrence of a surgical site infection, are harder to measure fairly and much harder to risk adjust.” 

What’s not emphasized in the article, however, is the benefit of a focused improvement in care in one specific area, Dutton said. “That hospitals nationwide have achieved 98 percent compliance with these SCIP measures likely represents a substantial improvement in systems and safety that is itself a laudable achievement.”

>> Hospital Compare website

>> Original report edited by

>> Source: Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health,

>> Research Source: Health Services Research is the official journal of the Academy Health and is published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc. on behalf of the Health Research and Educational Trust.

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