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CMS Unveils Web Site Comparing Hospital Quality

April 1, 2005—The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services posted quality performance data for "nearly all" the nation's hospitals Friday on its new "Hospital Compare" Web site. About 4,200 hospitals have reported data on at least 10 performance measures for posting on the site.

The comparisons also may be found at Medicare's main Web site or obtained by calling 1-800-Medicare.

The data allow consumers to compare local hospitals based on the care they give for heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia. Some hospitals are reporting data on up to 17 measures, CMS said. This is not a final product," CMS Administrator Mark B. McClellan emphasized. AFL-CIO lobbyist Gerald Shea, who praised the public-private effort that produced the data, said "another dozen measures are in the pipeline right now" in a phone briefing with reporters to announce the site.

Another participant in the project, American Hospital Association President Dick Davidson, said the comparisons also should eventually include surgical infection rates and mortality rates. McClellan said data on patient satisfaction and on infections acquired in the hospital should be posted within a year.

The intent of the initiative, the Hospital Quality Alliance, is not simply to inform consumers but also to give hospitals an incentive to improve their ratings. The data also are likely to be used as part of a "pay-for-performance" system that rewards higher quality care with higher payments. But McClellan wouldn't predict when such a system would begin.

Examples of the measures include the percentage of heart attack patients who get aspirin on arrival at the hospital, the percentage who receive angioplasty within 90 minutes of arrival, and the percentage of pneumonia patients who receive oxygen assessment tests.

Data submission is voluntary, but nearly all eligible hospitals reported data on at least 10 measures in order to qualify for higher payment increases this year.

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