19 September 2007

Transparency in healthcare is just plain hard

While basking in the euphoria of knowing Keith Sprankle is following me on twitter...

My wife brought this to my attention in an email on Tuesday:
Next spring, the government plans to release data showing how consumers rate care in hospitals across the country. But Northwest Community Hospital isn't waiting: Its results already are up on the Internet.
I also noticed that Paul Levy saw the same issue and said simply,
Won't it be a pleasure when stories like this one cease to be newsworthy?
Well, of course it will. But this will be newsworthy for quite some time because:
There are no exact numbers on how many hospitals have taken this step and no standards governing the disclosure of quality information. Many data sources exist, and medical centers could leave out information that portrays them in an unfavorable light. Experts recommend that consumers be aware of the potential for bias and discuss findings with their physician.
So, sure, kudos to the hospitals that choose to jump ahead a bit and get their data out. But let's make sure they paint a complete and accurate picture - no simple task. Because transparency doesn't work if you only go half way. And it's impossible for consumers to compare hospitals if we don't have common standards.

Of course, there are already a lot of smart people working on this in the private and public sectors. But we're years away from consensus on reporting methods -- perhaps it does make sense for hospitals to report everything they can and let the market figure out what's most important.

(This is when I'm really happy that Paul Levy has his job and I have mine.)

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