Tag Archives: hospital compare

Mass. won’t post hospitals’ death rates

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Boston Globe‘s Liz Kowalczyk reports that, two years after it was first proposed by a consumer group, the Massachusetts Health Care Quality and Cost Council has decided it won’t publish hospital-wide mortality rates. The problem, it seems, is the lack of an accurate, universal method of computing such numbers.

Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, who heads the group that made the decision, said current methodology for calculating hospital-wide mortality rates is so flawed that officials do not believe it would be useful to hospitals and patients and could harm public trust in government.

It appears, Kowalczyk writes, that general hospital mortality rates just aren’t “ready for prime time” quite yet.

The council convened an expert panel, which worked with researchers to evaluate software of four companies for measuring hospital mortality. The problem was that researchers came out with vastly different results when they used the various methodologies to calculate hospital mortality between 2004 and 2007 in Massachusetts, and they could not tell which company’s results — or if any — were accurate.

AHCJ members hear about latest health care data

Jeff Porter

About Jeff Porter

Jeff Porter is the director of education for AHCJ and plays a lead role in planning conferences, workshops and other training events. He also leads the organization's data collection and data instruction efforts.

Dozens of AHCJ members participated in a conference call today announcing data designed to track outpatient outcomes in hospitals. The data are part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Compare database.

The database gives statistics, by hospital, on:

  • How efficiently facilities use imaging equipment and keep patients safe from exposure to potentially harmful, unnecessary radiation.
  • Rates of outpatient MRIs for lower back pain before other treatment – a potential indicator of wasteful spending.
  • Rates of outpatient re-tests after a screening mammogram, another indicator of overspending.
  • How frequently outpatient departments gave patients “double” computed tomography (CT) scans when a single scan may be all that is needed.
  • How well outpatients are treated for suspected heart attacks.
  • How well outpatient surgical patients are protected from infection.

CMS also announced updated data showing hospitals’ rates of death and readmission for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia patients.

AHCJ made an audio recording of the conference call. Follow this link to listen. A link to the CMS press release is on the agency’s website.

The slideshow below shows you how to access the new data:

USA Today matches hospital quality data, tourism

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

USA Today‘s Steve Sternberg and Jack Gillum put a new spin on federal Hospital Compare ratings and other hospital quality data, matching the ratings, as well as data on death rates, with popular travel destinations and the locations of state parks. The reporters make the case that travelers should keep hospital quality data in mind when planning vacations.

From the story, which also includes a list of poorly-rated hospitals in travel hotspots:

A USA Today analysis finds two dozen hospitals near popular travel destinations, as compiled by the National Travel Monitor, have death rates among the worst in the USA. A separate analysis shows that one of every four hospitals with high death rates for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia — 94 of 402 — are near state parks.

Related

AHCJ Vice President Charles Ornstein, whose own hospital quality coverage has earned national recognition, recently updated his comprehensive “Road map for covering your local hospital’s quality” tip sheet with links to state-by-state resources and additional nationwide tools for journalists looking into hospital quality.

AHCJ article: Making sense of hospital quality reports

Book: Covering the Quality of Health Care: A Resource Guide for Journalists

Slim guide: Covering Hospitals: Using Tools on the Web

Free online training

On the Beat: Covering Hospitals: An innovative simulation guides you through the sources and resources you need to tackle the beat. You’ll tap into the same tools that you’ll use on the job, and you’ll have a virtual mentor to walk you through the maze of reports, statistics and sources. One story line teaches you about reporting on hospital quality

Data

Investigating hospitals: Find stories with ready-to-use Hospital Compare data: AHCJ has made it easier for journalists to compare hospitals in their regions by generating spreadsheet files from the HHS database, allowing members to compare more than a few hospitals at a time, using spreadsheet or database software. AHCJ provides key documentation and explanatory material to help you understand the data possibilities and limits.

Tip sheets

Reports

Hot Health Headlines

Poor, rural hospitals have higher death rates

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

USA Today‘s Steve Sternberg and Jack Gillum expanded upon a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report showing higher death rates at the nation’s worst hospitals, adding their own analysis showing that death rates are also higher at hospitals in low-income and low-population counties.

Consider source when reporting hospital rankings

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

HealthGrades, a health care ratings company, has released a report (PDF) that says “Medicare patients treated at top-rated hospitals nationwide across the most common Medicare diagnoses and procedures are 27 percent less likely to die, on average, than those admitted to all other hospitals.”

The report also names the hospitals that HealthGrades has deemed “Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence.”

That study (PDF) and the designations for hospitals are prompting a number of news articles reporting that local hospitals have been named as “top hospitals.”

But there are some things to think about when examining hospital rankings. For one thing, hospitals pay HealthGrades to use its information as promotional material. In addition, the data HealthGrades uses can be out of date and is based only on Medicare patients. A 2002 review found that “ratings on individual hospitals were often misleading.”

Charles Ornstein of ProPublica wrote a thorough tip sheet about how to cover your local hospital, including information about HealthGrades and other hospital rankings.

For a more balanced comparison of local hospitals, consider using the Hospital Compare patient survey data from the Department of Health and Human Services. AHCJ has made it easier for journalists to compare hospitals in their regions by generating spreadsheet files from the HHS database, allowing members to compare more than a few hospitals at a time, using spreadsheet or database software.

AHCJ provides key documentation and explanatory material to help you understand the data possibilities and limits. Need help analyzing Excel files? AHCJ offers a tutorial about investigating health data using spreadsheets.

Easier-to-use Hospital Compare data

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune‘s David Gulliver was among several reporters who reported earlier this year about the U.S. Health and Human Services’ release of a new component of its Hospital Compare database – the results of a patient satisfaction survey announced at Health Journalism 2008 in March. He recently followed up using updated data in a more comprehensive story, analyzing all three components of the Hospital Compare database – “process” measures, or accepted standards of care; the patient survey; and “outcome” measures – the percentage of patients who died within 30 days of admission from heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia. HHS now updates the patient survey data quarterly, and AHCJ has made it easier for journalists to make their own comparisons. AHCJ has begun generating spreadsheet files, allowing members to use spreadsheet or database software with precision. AHCJ provides key documentation and explanatory material to help you understand the data possibilities and limits.