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Quality of Care and Health Care Outcomes Data Become Available Online, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

From the earliest days of the internet, one of the most popular activities online has been searching for information about illness, disease, pharmaceuticals and their side effects, as well as information related to care and diagnosis, such as options for surgery.  Now, online activity about health care has risen to a massive level.  With rapidly rising health care costs and concerns about the quality of care received for the dollar spent, many patients, employers and insurance providers are using online databases for information regarding doctors and hospitals—call it comparison shopping for health care.  For example, there are growing numbers of web sites that track data on hospitals, such as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ web site, Hospital Compare (www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html).  Hospital Compare uses data from Medicare and Medicaid to track performance at thousands of facilities across the U.S.  Also, many insurers make hospital data available to members on their web sites.
These databases typically enable an insurer or patient to compare specific hospitals to the national average on statistics such as mortality rates.  For example, the Hospital Compare site compares each hospital in Houston, Texas to the Texas state average and to the national average.  Data includes many items concerning patient experiences and satisfaction, surgical outcomes, readmission, hospital-related infections, and time spent waiting for care in emergency rooms.  Also, average costs for various types of procedures are now available online on web sites that are attempting to earn profits from such services, although the quality of the data may vary.

Internet Research Tip:  Getting Hospital Ratings Online
Patients and concerned family members can now use any of several web sites to check on the quality of hospitals before checking in for treatment.  Available data typically includes patient outcomes, fees and whether the latest in technology is available.  For patients needing specialized care, this knowledge can be a real windfall.  WebMD Health Services, at www.webmdhealthservices.com, (formerly Subimo) gets high marks for its ease of use.  It sells subscriptions to major employers and health plans, whose members can then log in. 

     The Medicare claims database is a digital record of the bills Medicare pays.  It is used by federal investigators to sniff out fraud and for analysis by researchers and consultants for cost and utilization studies.  Medicare has begun making some data about payments to individual physicians available.  The database covers millions of caregivers and beneficiaries, but it is prohibited by law from disclosing patients’ names.

Internet Research Tip:
Top web sites for health care information include:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), www.cdc.gov
 
Elsewhere, corporations in various segments of the health industry may publish interesting cost and outcomes information.  For example, health diagnostics and monitoring devices from Abbott, provide an online database giving the exact CPT procedure code and Medicare reimbursement rate for hundreds of procedures such as cholesterol tests at www.codemap.com/alere.  The data is sorted geographically as well as by type of care.
Data on individual doctors is becoming available online, at such web sites as www.findadoc.com.  The quality of the data from such sites may vary, and one should use caution.  Nonetheless, the information is intriguing.  Findadoc, for example, enables the user to look up doctors by location and specialty, and then view their hospital affiliations, languages spoken and patient ratings for such qualities as bedside manner and wait time.
Quantum Health (www.quantum-health.com), a Columbus, Ohio health care coordinator, offers comparative health care data to its corporate clients, plus a laundry list of services that help employees covered by company insurance navigate the often confusing health care system and get the most out of their health benefits.  Quantum Health services include informing patients of what questions they should ask their physicians about their conditions, assistance in finding specialists, advice on medical tests that should or should not be taken and education on disease management and prevention.  Quantum reports that its employer clients have enjoyed reduced spending on workers’ health care, thanks to reductions in waste and unnecessary care, better results from disease management and a 25% reduction in health benefits-related workload.  Two of its most impressive statistics are a 22% reduction in readmissions and a 4% reduction in emergency room usage.
The Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA) includes a provision that hospitals and doctors that score poorly on patient surveys can be denied Medicare reimbursement fees.  Surveys such as those from Press Ganey, Gallup and National Research Corp., on which patients score health care providers on care experiences (based on patient surveys) including waiting times, pain relief and bedside manner, are becoming powerful arbiters in how patients are treated.

Internet Research Tip:
To compare costs for procedures, try the following site:
For bill negotiation services, see:
To determine whether or not a physician is board certified:


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