CMS to publish cardiac death rates, but carefully

Quite aware that a misstep could generate a huge backlash among hospitals, CMS has chosen a conservative course for its planned publication of cardiac death rates. Starting next month, the agency will publish death rates for heart attack and heart failure on its Hospital Compare website. The reports, which reflect stats from July 2005 to June 2006, profile heart attack and heart failure patients who died within a month of entering the hospital. Rather than citing precise death rates for each hospital, the site will only rate the hospitals as better than expected, average or worse than expected, with the vast majority (roughly 98 percent) falling right in the middle. Meanwhile, CMS will give hospitals reports which will include codes allowing hospitals to track down specific cases and see what happened with a particular patient. The agency doesn't plan to censure the hospitals that fall into the bottom tier, nor does it plan to reward those who perform particularly well.

To learn more about CMS's plans:
- read this USA Today article

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