Last November, I talked about the introduction of Hospital Compare, which allows the public to view and compare hospitals based on measurable statistics, like surgical death rate and hospital readmission rate. The theory went like this: if hospitals were compared to each other in what is essentially quality of care, then directors and staff would be pressured to improve services.
On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal tackled the story:
“The VA secretary pays attention to this,” says William E. Duncan, the agency’s associate deputy undersecretary for health quality and safety. “Unless people in the VA system have an organizational death wish, they will pay attention to this, too.”
When VA hospitals in Virginia and Oklahoma learned an abnormally high number of their patients contracted pneumonia while on ventilators, they took steps to cut the rates. And a hospital in Kansas City, Mo., that recently ranked relatively poorly on surgical-death rates says it has improved by making staffing and other changes in radiology, cardiology and emergency medicine, including better avoiding hospital-borne infections.
There’s a couple things to take away from this. One, VA Medical Centers should always be in a state of improvement. Period. Still, mistakes and accidents happen like at any hospital. But since VA is federally funded, this data is open to the public. As noted in the article, it’s an unprecedented release of information that won’t be found outside VA’s system.
Two, this gives Veterans an option to seek care at other VA facilities if they’re concerned about a specific hospital’s performance. If a Vet with heart troubles identifies his local medical center as having a below average re-admittance rate for congestive heart failure, he might consider another facility for his care. It shouldn’t have to come to that, but some facilities will simply do better than others.
Like I said last time, the data is a bit of a challenge to comb through, and it’s only viewable on Internet Explorer (sorry fellow Firefox users). But it’s an initiative that uses information and technology to push facilities to improve their care. Pretty neat, I think.