On Friday the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) took a big step toward helping patients more-completely compare hospitals. We wait to see if anyone takes advantage of that opportunity.
CMS recently updated and improved the Hospital Compare website. From the release, “For the first time, consumers have the three critical elements — quality information, patient satisfaction survey information, and pricing information for specific procedures — they need to make effective decisions about the quality and value of the health care available to them through local hospitals.”
The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey collects information from over 2,500 hospitals and allows CMS to report ten measures of patient satisfaction in addition to 26 quality measures with more to come.
This has been well covered in the blogosphere. Avery Comarow, the editor of U.S. News’s annual Best Hospitals issue, fully explores the HCAHPS survey and the Hospital Compare website:
Here’s how it will work: No more than six weeks after they are discharged, adult patients who spent at least one night in a hospital (omitting those admitted for psychiatric reasons) will be surveyed by mail or phone. Each hospital will need to contact as many patients as needed to generate at least 300 completed responses per year to the 22-item questionnaire. Every month or quarter (it’s up to the hospital), each facility will report its results to the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS will adjust the responses to correct for patient age, size of the hospital, and other lurking biases. Results will be posted, hospital by hospital, for the most recent four quarters’ worth of data and will include national and state averages and other information to put the numbers into perspective. CMS says it will look closely at the survey responses, make on-site visits, and otherwise try to control hanky-panky. (Hospitals can continue to commission their own surveys and even put the questions on the federal survey, but the federal questions have to be listed first.)
Mr. Comarow also has a very nice review of the website and some tips on using the service. The Health Care Blog also covers the update. The Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog humorously headlines that Hospital Quality Measurement Leaves the ‘Pong Era.’
Not everyone may agree with the utility provided by the updated Hospital Compare website—dare I say some may even be upset that patients are able to compare hospitals on such subjective measures as patient satisfaction? But this is a good thing—and if a hospital doesn’t like its reported data, the solution is simple: improve patient satisfaction.