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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Hospital Quality-Checks & Balances

Discerning Hospital Quality
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services(CMS) now requires health quality measures for specific clinical services, in order to recognize and encourage the best patient outcomes. Recognition will include greater financial reimbursement for those medical practices which conform to the CMS standards for clinical outcomes. This is yet another step in the right direction toward patient-centered-care as identified by the International Order of Medicine. This article highlights the primary hospital quality watchdogs in the United States and consumer tips on how to assess your hospital.
Organizations Measuring Hospital Quality
There are a number of ways to gauge your hospital’s quality, including accessing information from public sites, such as the Center for Disease Control, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Health & Human Services Agency. There are also nonprofit organizations devoted to measuring hospital quality including; the Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation Organization, National Quality Forum,Then LeapFrog Group and the Quality & Patient Safety Organization. Here are the crib notes for these organizations.
Private Sector Quality Watchdogs
Joint Commission
The Joint Commission for Hospital Accreditation is the pre-eminent organization for auditing and certifying hospital services in the United States. Obtaining its’ certification is an essential requirement for hospitals, which may lose reimbursement contracts and patients without the JCO recognition. The Joint Commission recognizes twenty-two hospital medical errors, which it has been tracking for patient safety purposes for 15 years.
National Quality Forum
The National Quality Forum is a non-profit group created by thirty-two health care organizations to develop consensus about hospital quality indicators and reporting. The NQF reviews twenty-seven patient safety metrics, but the information is not shared with the public.
Quality & Patient Safety Organization
The non-profit Quality and Patient Safety Organization or QuPS provides state-by-state analysis of patient safety initiatives by state governments. You can go to the site and see what your state has done to make your hospital safer.
Public Agency Quality Police
Agency for Health Research and Quality
The Agency of Health Research and Quality or AHRQ was created in 1999 to promote methods for improving health care quality in the United States. Though it doesn’t have any enforcement provisions, it does conduct research, award grants, and recognize health care groups with excellent performance.
Center for Disease Control
The federal Center for Disease Control established the National Health Safety Network in 2005. As of 2010, twenty-two states had adopted this method for reporting patient safety errors in hospitals and other inpatient facilities. Presently, 3,000 hospitals use this system, which make it the largest database for hospital errors in the United States. The data is collected for scientific review and specific facilities are not disclosed.
Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services
The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services polices patient quality outcomes and publishes statistics, like patient mortality from pneumonia, heart failure, and acute myocardial infarction (AMI). However, mortality information alone is not a good measure of hospital quality or patient safety, because you would have to know the patient volumes as well as the morbidity or overall patient health. This information may be found at:
One of the CMS sites that is helpful is the listing for certified organ transplant centers at:

Health & Human Services
The Health & Human Services Agency or HHS has a web site where you can find your hospital and compare clinical outcomes by diagnosis, to other facilities. This is a useful tool if you live in an urban area with multiple facilities, because you will literally be able to check their performance before your procedure. The link to this site is:

Other Public Sources for Hospital Certification Information
The American College of Surgeons publishes an on-line guide to Trauma Center Certification which is quite detailed because it explains the criteria for Level I Trauma Status. Also, university hospitals are teaching facilities and they typically have the highest status for trauma injuries. Information on your university hospital is available on its web site or through the State Department of Health.
Local Look
Washington State Hospitals which scored high in quality measures for 2009 data include: Virginia Mason, all of the Swedish Hospitals, University of Washington Medical Center, Harborview, Northwest Hospital, Seattle Children’s Hospital, Kadlec Hospital, St. Claire Hospital, and Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital. For information on how hospitals fared in your area, contact the healthpolicymaven by scrolling down to the comment tool or complete the form at:
Consumer Tips
The healthpolicymaven’s advice is to know-before-you-go for your surgical procedure and here are some helpful tips to figure out your hospital's quality score:
1.Look for public reporting of hospital medical errors as this is the highest degree of transparency and commitment to improve patient safety.
2.Hospitals which use a national model like the CDC’s National Health Safety Network are using a rigorously tested assessment model.
3.Find out if your state mandates public disclosure of patient safety errors and if it is available by facility.
4.The Center for Medicare & Medicaid publishes information on hospital performance, including infections, surgical errors, and discharge information.
5.Ask questions and do some research.

Closing Thoughts

This patient safety article may not seem that germane now that the country is in its third war and on its knees fiscally. However, the Chinese are paying our light bill, having mastered science and math and access to birth control. Meanwhile folks in the United States continue to debate teaching the science of evolution versus the dogma of religion in public schools. Is it any wonder the US doesn’t measure up to global standards for primary education?


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