Tag Archives: quality data

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.

Site allows analysis, sharing of health 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.

During a chat at the Health Journalism 2010 registration desk on Wednesday night, AHCJ special projects director Jeff Porter learned about a new interactive Web site from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

CMS has launched data.medicare.gov, a site that allows users to access data, sort and filter it using multiple criteria, then download the results as spreadsheets or other formats for further analysis. The site allows users to share the data via social network tools such as Facebook or Twitter, or copy and paste code to publish the data on their own Web sites.

Among the data sets that journalists might find useful are versions of Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare.

The example below shows a list of Illinois-specific hospitals from the Hospital Compare data covering patient surveys.

Illinois hospitals

AHCJ: Joint Commission site obscures information

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.

In a letter to Mark R. Chassin , M.D.,  the Joint Commission‘s president and CEO, the Association of Health Care Journalists has suggested improvements to the commission’s Quality Check Web site, where many people go to find out whether to trust their local hospital.

The Web site also is a potentially useful tool for health-care journalists. “In a time of change in health care, the ability to do comprehensive research on local hospitals is more important than ever before,” the association’s letter said.

Among the problems identified:

  • Hospitals with any level of accreditation are given “The Gold Seal of Approval” – even those whose accreditation is conditional or at risk of being denied.
  • It’s difficult to find out which hospitals in a given region have less-than-full accreditation. To check on a hospital’s accreditation status, one has to open each individual profile. The Joint Commission once had a mechanism to sort hospitals by accreditation status, but that is no longer available.
  • After a hospital loses accreditation, its past Accreditation Quality Reports are eventually removed from the site, leaving only the facility’s name with no historical record.
  • There is no easy way to do a side-by-side comparison of more than six facilities simultaneously.

“The organization that accredits hospitals around the country, and voices support for transparency about hospital quality, has a Web site that obscures the reality of many hospitals’ performance,” said Charles Ornstein, AHCJ president.

Read  more about AHCJ’s letter to the Joint Commission.