MOUNT VERNON — Starting today, Ohioans will have the opportunity to easily compare hospitals on over 100 different measures with the click of a mouse.
The Ohio Department of Health launched Hospital Compare on its Web site www.odh.ohio.gov as part of House Bill 197, passed in 2006.
The bill, which created a Measures Advisory Council, required an online database be established by 2010 that opens the doors for more transparency with hospital data.
Consumers will be able to compare information on measures such as heart attack care, heart failure care, heart surgery, stroke care, pneumonia care, surgical care, hospital acquired infections, infection prevention, patient safety, patient satisfaction, children’s asthma care and pregnancy/delivery.
“This will allow consumers to look at how hospitals in their area are performing,” said Sara Morman, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Health.
With the information, consumers will be able to do comparison shopping, so to speak, between hospitals when looking for specific care needs.
“This is a great tool for consumers to make more informed health care decisions,” Morman said.
The data is compiled from abstracts taken from patient charts. The information is then sent to a third party for further analysis. Information such as illness, treatment and care practices are part of the abstract. Personal patient identification is not part of the process, said Judy Schwartz, M.D., vice president of medical affairs for Knox Community Hospital.
Although some of this information is already available on the Internet, new fields of information have been added to Hospital Compare not available to the public before now.
According to the Ohio Hospital Association, new data will include information on heart bypass and angioplasty mortality, complications of anesthesia, pressure ulcers, any foreign body left during procedures and different infection rates.
Although consumers can view statistical data from hospitals all over the state, Bruce White, chief executive officer of Knox Community Hospital, said it is important to remember this information should only be part of the whole process in making health care decisions.
“Raw data is not enough. You need to use your health care professionals to help make those decisions,” he said.
Not overanalyzing the data in the comparisons is an important aspect of the research, according to Schwartz. Just because one hospital has a better number for a specific measure or two doesn’t necessarily mean they are better, she said.
“These measures should not be used in isolation,” Schwartz said. “You need to realize that one or two indicators aren’t indicative of the entire facility. One bad statistic for a small hospital can really skew the data; huge medical centers have more room for error.”
Hospitals have been recording this information for internal purposes, so providing it for the public is a step they are eager to take, said White.
“Hospital transparancy is critical to moving forward,” he said.
In addition to clinical data, the new database will include charge information for each hospital. Much like the clinical information, charge data is not exactly comparing apple to apples.
According to White, hospitals have base charges for procedures, but that does not always include everything the patient will need during a hospital stay.
This aspect of the developed site is nothing new to White and the financial department at KCH, because basic pricing information has been available on the KCH Web site, www.knoxcommhosp.com, for quite a while.
Charge costs have also been available on the Ohio Department of Health Web site, according to Morman. Although including charges on Hospital Compare was not part of the 2006 legislation, ODH will be integrating the information over the next year into a more user-friendly approach.
“We weren’t mandated to make the charge data available in another format than it is now,” Morman said. “To enhance the experience for the consumer, ODH will integrate this data into the new Ohio Hospital Compare in future releases of the site. Our expectation is for that to take place at the end of 2010.”