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'The Business of Health Care Report'

Understanding Hospital Quality Data
10/05/2009

Click to listen to the taped broadcast.

I’m Doug Hawthorne, CEO of Texas Health Resources, with “The Business of Health Care Report.”

Consumers today have access to more information about the quality of health care services than ever before. A simple Google search for “hospital quality” returns more than 44 million results. Web sites for Hospital Compare, The Joint Commission, and Health Grades are among the top search results.

Chances are, if you’ve spent time navigating the Web to help understand the quality of care at your local hospital, you’ve found varying results. That’s because each agency that reports quality data has a different way of measuring.

Some quality data is extracted only from Medicare and Medicaid patients; other data look at broader patient populations. Some measurements focus on hospital processes; others look at patient outcomes. Some studies compare thousands of hospitals across the country; others compare small groups of facilities enrolled in certain programs.

And finally, each quality measurement has a different “lag time” for reporting, so often the “latest” data available is anywhere from nine months to more than two years old.

The sheer volume of quality data can be dizzying, and the seeming inconsistencies can be downright confusing. But the fact that this information is out there, at your fingertips, represents real progress toward greater transparency of the health care industry.

For the next two weeks, I will focus on some of the quality data available and the role it can play in creating more informed patients and better quality of care.

For our faith-based family of hospitals — Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Harris Methodist and Texas Health Arlington Memorial — I’m Doug Hawthorne.

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