Here's How to Find Out
One of the positive trends in health care is the increasing awareness and availability of patient safety data. Over the last decade, federal and state governments have placed greater emphasis on collecting data about the outcomes patients have experienced in several key areas — and presenting the information to consumers. The Internet is a main vehicle for disseminating this data.
Many reliable sources of data sponsored by the government and private companies are available to the public. One of the most prominent is the Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov) website of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services. Hospitals all over the country voluntarily collect the data, including care measures patients receive in treatment for heart attack, heart disease, pneumonia, surgery and children's asthma.
Another source of information is the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, a standardized survey patients fill out focusing on 10 areas of care. This survey rates how patients view the facility and the medical team administering treatment. The Patient Experience survey asks patients to rate the hospital in the following areas: overall grade, whether they would recommend the hospital to others, communication with nurses, communication with doctors, timely assistance from hospital staff, pain management, communication about medications, transition to home (discharge information), and cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment.
Contributing to this data is Hospital Quality Alliance, a public-private collaboration of organizations representing consumers, hospitals, doctors, nurses, employers, accrediting organizations and federal agencies. Here, Louisiana Health Finder's Compare (www.healthfinderla.gov) is the state-sponsored site reporting patient data.
"Publishing patient safety and experience data is great for both the patient and the hospital," says Dr. Sidney "Beau" Raymond, East Jefferson General Hospital Chief of Staff and internal medicine physician. "It speaks to the quality of care a facility provides. Even though this information can be found on government sites, East Jefferson made the decision to place our data prominently on our website so that patients don't have to look in multiple places. We believe it shows confidence in our entire staff, and we use the data to help raise our own bar of expectations to better treat our patients."
The care measures are important because they track how consistently hospitals provide the recommended standards of care, processes and treatments. This standardized care is based on the latest evidence-based medical practices shown to produce the best clinical results. Within each of the care measures, benchmarks are rated such as the percentage of patients receiving and stopping antibiotics at appropriate times, the percentage of smoking patients who receive advice about how to quit, whether vaccines were administered when needed and more. The data normally is a year old and has been verified for accuracy.
"We want patients to be informed," Raymond says. "We want them engaged in their care and knowledgeable so they can decide what is best for them and their families. Our goal is to provide the safest environment possible based on the latest evidence-based medicine. We believe that transparency of our clinical data tremendously helps us accomplish this goal."