National directory for hospital quality allows patients to shop around

Patients now have a consolidated site through which to compare a host of quality reports on your hospital. And hospital execs have one place to go to check out their competitors.

It's the National Directory for Comparing Health Care Quality, launched Tuesday by the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The site doesn't create any new quality data, but pulls together a host of publicly available quality reports (224 so far) into one site. Through an interactive map of the United States on the site, users can pull up lists of available reports by state, and link to the actual data.

For example, family members in Indiana can compare hospital quality scores from both the Central Indiana Alliance for Health and the Indiana State Department of Health.

One interesting aspect of the site: It includes data about cost right alongside the data about quality. For example, Oregonians can research the cost of a hospital stay through the Oregon Health Policy and Research agency's "Compare Hospital Costs" report.

Why a new site if most of the data is already accessible online? RWJF officials say they're hoping that by bringing all the quality information together on one website, they'll encourage patients to shop around more for healthcare providers.

"Most people still obtain their care where grandma says it's good, or brother says it's good or that's where my friends go. And I heard this is a good doctor and I heard this is a good hospital," John Hickner, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic's Department of Family Medicine, said in an RWJF press release. "What I think [the directory listings] will do though, is they will encourage healthy competition amongst health care systems and physicians to improve their product."

The data is uneven across the map just yet, with California sporting a total of 14 reports on hospitals and physician groups, but some states like Florida only providing two. We checked out the links, and state sites, and found some take users directly to the data, while others transport users to a central state agency or association site, requiring them to link through to the actual quality reports.

To learn more:
- check out RWJF's national directory site
- read the RWJF press release
- get more detail from the LA Times coverage