Since a short while, American health care consumers can consult a new service on the Internet which evaluates the mortality data with regard to the various cardiology treatment programmes and different methods of cardiac surgery within hospitals throughout the United States. A five-star system is being applied to rate the hospital's performance in cardiology and offer candidate heart patients an insight in the quality of the health care service. The rate system will soon be extended to other medical specialities, such as respiratory illness, oncology, and neurosurgery.
The initiative for this type of hospital ratings has been taken by Specialty Care Network, a Colorado-based company, specialized in physician practice management. The ranking system is based on the official mortality figures, that were purchased from the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). The HCFA forms a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Every month, new medical fields will be introduced to the Web site whereas the ratings will be updated twice a year. The information is freely available to the consumer.
Since some hospitals are hosting patients who suffer from more severe heart affections than patients staying at other medical facilities, it should be clear that the mortality data has to be carefully interpreted. Therefore, Specialty Care Network has designed a model for accurate comparison of mortality outcomes using a compensating factor, which takes in account the fact that clinics with very ill patients evidently show higher mortality rates. To that purpose, the company has asked for additional assistance from experienced specialists to generate a scheme with risk-adjusted outcome measures.
The final model includes the following parameters. All of the deceased heart sufferers were exclusively Medicare patients of over age 65, who underwent their surgical treatment between 1995 and 1997. The figures integrated in the model, relate to mortality in the hospital, but also in-hospital mortality plus 30 days after discharge, and in-hospital mortality plus decease at six months after leaving the medical facility. Not only people who are past 65 can benefit from the rating system but the information is equally useful for a patient in his forties for whom the doctor might consider a coronary bypass surgery.
Currently, some 15 percent of the hospitals receive a ranking of four or five stars. These results respectively correspond to "very good" and "excellent". A three-star rating is being reserved for about 70 percent of the medical facilities. This result indicates that their cardiology programmes show a mortality rate which corresponds to the expectations or display an average success with regard to their outcome. Specific details on physicians' performances are not published on the site, since this kind of information is not released by the Health Care Financing Administration.
In the future, Specialty Care Network plans to make money from the rating service by means of sponsorship sales to the best performing hospitals. In this way, the hospital staff will be able to use both the name and the data for promotional purposes. The highest ranked hospitals will be offered a deal to place a banner on the rating service's Web page, which has to link to their own site on the Internet. You can consult the hospital ratings at HealthCareReportCards.com.