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Web site lets Coloradans shop for best hospitals

Steven K. Paulson
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado ” Coloradans headed for a hospital stay can now shop around for the best care, using a new database monitored by state health officials that tells which facilities have the best record on ailments ranging from heart attacks to appendicitis.

Hospitals welcomed the new effort to grade their progress and said it will improve care statewide.

“It lets you know where you are right now and creates an incentive for how you can do better,” said Patricia Gabow, chief of the Denver Health and Hospital Authority.

Gov. Bill Ritter, who gave the new system a test drive on Wednesday, said the new system will help reduce health care costs by pushing hospitals to improve quality of care.

“We have, I think, in this country a very serious health-care crisis,” Ritter told a packed room at Denver Health Medical Center, which got good grades on heart attack mortality and patient safety for bed sores.

Ritter said he was pleased that the Colorado Hospital Association, representing hospitals across the state, agreed to partner with the state Department of Public Health and Environment to develop the system and keep it up to date.

Dr. Ned Colange, the health department’s chief medical officer, said other states offer hospital ratings, but Colorado has gone beyond that by offering a breakdown by region and by quality of procedures. Colorado’s rankings also include mortality, patient safety, pediatrics and prevention.

Next year, the state plans to add hospital infection rates.

Monitoring the reporting will cost the state about $129,000 over the next two years. But the state expects to save between $800,000 and $3 million over that same period?, based on the assumption that the report card will translate into fewer infections and shorter hospital stays for Medicaid patients.

Nationwide, an estimated 90,000 people across the country die from infections they contract while hospitalized.

Some hospitals were concerned about the report card, saying it includes measures that may not be appropriate for direct comparisons because of the nature of a hospital’s patient population, its size and the frequency of procedures.

That puts smaller hospitals at a disadvantage because of their smaller patient base. For instance, if hospital only gets one heart attack patient in a year and the patient dies, it would have a 100 percent mortality rate for that procedure.

Hospitals were given the opportunity to post their own response to the reports, such as the note from Montrose Memorial Hospital that it reported more deaths than normal for some categories in 2006 because hospice deaths were inadvertently included in the report card.

Steven Summer, president of the Colorado Hospital Association, said hospitals can also use the information to improve their care, bringing in additional experts if they are having problems.

“The goal is to raise the level of care for Colorado citizens,” he said.

“””

On the Net:

Hospital Report Card: http://www.cohospitalquality.org/


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