Quality information about health care
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By Dolan Dalpoas, Abraham Lincoln Memorial
When consumers can freely
access information about health care organizations in their
communities, they can make informed decisions about the care they
receive. Finding out that information has not always been easy, but
the pendulum is starting to swing in the direction to favor the
public -- and that's good news.
In July, the Joint Commission on
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations launched "Quality Check,"
a website where consumers can compare the quality of treatment at
hospitals across the country. By visiting
central Illinois residents may compare their hospitals with others
-- within the state or around the nation.
This is an objective and clear source
of information from a respected organization. JCAHO is the largest
health care accrediting agency in the United States. This
independent organization conducts performance evaluations on more
than 16,000 health care provider systems and programs every three
years. In 2002, ALMH received a 97 on a 100-point rating scale,
placing it in the top 20 percent of all hospitals surveyed.
Let's face the truth. The health
care system is increasingly complex. Many hospitals are reluctant to
provide consumers with reliable information to help them judge
quality. JCAHO's website allows consumers to compare hospitals in
four areas: heart attacks, heart failures, pneumonia, and pregnancy
and related conditions. Icons provide simple visual references to
show how the hospitals are rated.
Consumers can see detailed and
measurable information on why hospitals received the rating posted.
Under pneumonia, for example, one of five measures is whether or not
a patient 65 years and older was screened and vaccinated to prevent
pneumonia from recurring. On the JCAHO website, consumers will learn
that at ALMH, 72 percent of eligible patients received pneumonia
vaccines, versus the national average of 38 percent. We earned a
plus-sign icon and are committed to earning a star.
Participation is mandatory for
hospitals that seek JCAHO accreditation. This mandatory requirement
is a step in the right direction for consumers, but two other
voluntary-reporting sites provide useful comparison data as well.
Both are sponsored by the federal government's Center for Medicare
and Medicaid Services. ALMH, as part of the Memorial Health System,
participates in both.
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The National Voluntary Reporting
Initiative, which can be accessed on the World Wide Web at
www.cms.hhs.gov/quality/hospital, is open to the nearly 5,000
hospitals across the country and reports on 10 indicators in three
key conditions: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia. Although
approximately 70 percent of the nation's hospitals have committed to
submitting data voluntarily, only 13 percent have data on the site.
Last year, ALMH was among the first
hospitals in the nation to sign up for an innovative, three-year
pilot project aimed at improving quality of patient care. The
CMS/Premier Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration measures
hospitals on 34 indicators in five key clinical areas: heart bypass
surgery, heart failure, heart attack, community-acquired pneumonia,
and hip and knee replacement. This voluntary project carries an
incentive. Hospitals in the top 10 percent for a given condition,
for example, will receive a 2 percent incentive in their Medicare
These national initiatives are
important first steps toward developing consistent quality standards
that will translate into improved patient care. All people deserve
safe, quality health care. Hospitals that are serious about quality
of care must provide consumers with the details that will help them
make informed decisions about their health.
[Dolan Dalpoas, assistant
administrator and director
of quality management, Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital]