Online ratings don't help patients determine best hospitals

Online hospital ratings do not help patients compare quality or performance, according to a new study published in Health Services Research.

Researchers, led by Kyan Cyrus Safavi, M.D., of Yale School of Medicine, analyzed the Department of Health & Human Services' Hospital Compare site to see how well it helped patients determine the top-performing hospital in their area.

"Since it's important to empower patients to make better decisions about where they seek care, we wanted to know more about how that process is really going--and what kind of data they really see," Safavi told Health Behavior News Serivce. Although the nearly 3,000 U.S. hospitals that provide Surgical Care Improvement Project (SCIP) data generally perform well, there is too little variation for patients to differentiate between their local hospitals, researchers found.

"Patients use this type of data frequently, especially when making decisions about elective or semi-elective surgeries," Safavi said, according to the article. "There's a missed opportunity to provide those patients with more transparent and reliable information to better influence their decision-making." Further study is necessary to develop public reporting that enables patient decision-making, the researchers conclude in the study abstract.

If healthcare providers and Hospital Compare want to provide comprehensive quality data, they should pay attention to more diverse factors, Anesthesia Quality Institute Executive Director Richard P. Dutton, M.D., told Health Behavior News Service. "Things that matter more, such as perioperative mortality or the actual occurrence of a surgical site infection, are harder to measure fairly and much harder to risk adjust," Dutton said, noting that it was still positive news that SCIP compliance was so widespread.

Hospital Compare made several updates to the data it provides in the past year, including data on C. diff and MRSA prevention efforts and readmission rates for percutaneous coronary intervention, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the article