Hospital Comparison Tool May Lead to More Affordable Healthcare
In my humble opinion, the health insurance crisis in the U.S. has many causes, and the “solution” is a puzzle with many pieces.
I am extremely leery of solutions that merely shift costs (such as to a single government payer), without doing anything to improve quality, encourage wellness, or encourage better competition among providers.
That said, one piece of the puzzle to solving the problem of providing affordable healthcare to all is greater provider transparency — making healthcare information regarding quality and prices more readily available so employers and consumers can make better, more economical choices.
Somewhat to my surprise, I discovered that a federal government agency (Department of Health and Human Services) has created an online database consumers and employers can use to compare hospitals in their area: the HHS Hospital Compare.
HHS describes this site as a tool providing “information on how well the hospitals in your area care for all their adult patients with certain medical conditions.”
Using it, one may compare hospitals to each other and to U.S. and state averages on frequency of use of certain recommended medical care practices for particular conditions. For example, promptly giving aspirin to heart attack patients.
This type of healthcare information does not facilitate price-shopping; ultimately it should be coupled with price information. But it encourages hospitals to follow recommended medical care practices (so as to look better in such comparisons). This in turn should promote better outcomes, resulting in less expensive follow-up care and fewer costly recurrences of the treated conditions, thus ultimately promoting the goal of more affordable healthcare.
Photo credit: lisaschaos via flickr.
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