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.
John Ryan of KUOW News in Seattle used publicly available data and records requests to localize the national debate on nonprofit compensation with a piece on top earners at Seattle-area hospitals. Ryan details his information-gathering process here and shares his list of top local earners.
Ryan used a mix of local and national sources, getting explanations from some of the top earners (and perspective from some of the bottom earners) and quotes from those who believe nonprofit workers should not be earning that much money. He also included the thoughts of those who believe nonprofit hospitals need to pay competitive salaries in order to bring competitive talent.
Another story looks at the role of charity care and how much of it is provided: “Only three of the nonprofit hospitals in central Puget Sound give away more than 2 percent of their care to the poor: Providence Regional in Everett, Saint Clare in Lakewood, and Saint Francis in Federal Way. The Washington Department of Health tracks those figures.”
Felice Freyer, a medical writer at The Providence (R.I.) Journal and a member of AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, writes in an article for AHCJ that “In recent years, state and federal agencies have begun yanking data out of filing cabinets and opening their folders to the daylight of cyberspace.”
As Freyer points out, “The Internet offers vast new opportunities to answer every patient’s most pressing question: Am I entrusting my health to people who will take good care of me?”
Web sites that offer hospital quality data not only inform consumers, they prod everyone in health care to do a better job. Much more can and should be done to give the public better access to what the regulators know.
Read more of Freyers article.
Additional Sunshine Week coverage: Online health data varies by state
In an Associated Press story, Eli Segall looked at proposed legislation in New Jersey that would require hospitals to publish error information and would prevent hospitals from billing patients or insurers for procedures during which mistakes were made.
While current New Jersey law calls for the publication of statewide statistics for preventable mistakes, the proposed legislation would take it a step farther and require data to be shared for individual hospitals. Reports for 2005 and 2006 have been published under the current law; 826 mistakes – 40 percent of which were patient falls – were reported statewide.
According to one of Segall’s sources, patients were only billed for mistaken procedures in isolated cases under existing laws and that in many cases hospitals don’t bill anybody when egregious mistakes have been made and insurers may refuse payment when mistakes have been made.