hospital shopping


Better Hospital Shopping: Try Healthcare Savvy’s New Quality Map

WBUR’s Healthcare Savvy has just launched an important project: An interactive map of local hospitals that uses official public data to help you, the potential patient, try to find the best place to get the care you need. The photo above gives only a taste of the data; be sure to check out the full Savvy display here.

From the introduction by WBUR’s Martha Bebinger:

Hospitals say they are making great strides in gathering quality information. That’s great, but turning it into information we, consumers, can use still has a long way to go. And figuring out which doctors do a better job than their colleagues is nearly impossible to determine, except by word of mouth.

We’re hoping to kick off a broad discussion about where to find the best care, starting with this snapshot of hospital quality in Massachusetts. The scores and ratings you see on the map and bar chart below are not new. This is all public data, collected by private, state or federal agents and posted online somewhere else. We’re pooling a range of quality measures here to offer you a glimpse of how much quality varies from one hospital to the next and to give you a place to ask your questions about what the health care system will and won’t tell you about quality and why.

If you don’t find what you’re looking for here, let us know. We are putting readers on notice: this is the quality information that is available. We don’t think it’s good enough. Many hospitals agree. We all need to push for more. In the meantime, tell us what other quality information you’re looking for. We’ll see if we can help or let you know why we can’t.

Your input is deeply welcome — and it could help others, as well as yourself. Again, the full project is here.

Harvard Health Care Blog Debut: How To Use Hospital Rankings

Click on your bookmarks tab, please, everyone. Announcing a new blog that looks very worth following: An Ounce of Evidence, featuring Dr. Ashish Jha, The C. Boyden Gray Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In his first package, Dr. Jha not only analyzes the recent harvest of hospital rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Consumer Reports and The Leapfrog Group. He also offers guest posts from some of the the rankers themselves, discussing what they do and why.

Dr. Ashish Jha (HSPH)

As health policy goes, the blog is shockingly readable (yes, that’s a left-handed compliment if ever there was one) and uses car-shopping as a helpful analogy. For example:

If you’re lucky enough to find a hospital that gets rated highly by all three organizations, I’d take that in a heartbeat. It’s like finding a car that drives well, looks stylish, is reliable, and safe! No brainer. Unfortunately, those hospitals are rare. In Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital was ranked the #1 hospital in the country by U.S. News. It got an “A” from Leapfrog. It was near the bottom of Massachusetts hospitals in the CR rating, receiving a score of just 45 out of 100.

It can be easy to decide if the safety, or the style, or the performance of a car is most important to you. Unfortunately, choosing what’s most important in health care can make us ask difficult and seemingly unreasonable questions. Is my primary goal to survive my hospitalization, avoid infections and medication errors, or have a reasonably good experience? Every individual has to decide what matters most. If a low mortality rate is most important, U.S. News is your best bet. If you care most about patient safety, then Leapfrog is the way to go. Consumer Reports emphasizes infections, unnecessary radiation and patient experience. If those matter most, CR is your best bet.

My personal list ranks mortality as most important (by far), followed by safety, with patient experience an important but distant third. Others will make different choices.

So why, I asked, is Dr. Jha, a prominent researcher and practicing physician, adding a blog to his very full plate? He explained: Continue reading