KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Federal Report Details Health Care Quality Across States; Online System Ranks Quality At Illinois Hospitals

A Maryland Web site explores how the state ranked in a federal report about health care quality while other news operations look at an online site offered in Illinois that assesses hospitals there.

Southern Maryland Online: "Maryland excels in some areas of health care, like breast cancer screening and in-home care, but lags in others, such as pneumonia treatment and the number of HIV-related deaths, according to a new study. The National Healthcare Quality Report, released Tuesday, is an annual checkup on the quality of health care across the country, first ordered by Congress in 2003. Overall, the quality of Maryland's health care falls between weak and average, according to the agency that publishes the report, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Karen Migdail, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Maryland's results are not unusual."

"Health care experts and advocates said Maryland has a solid system, and blamed the weak areas on the state's budget constraints and physician shortage." W. James Reiter, at the Maryland Hospital Association, "said Maryland's unique 'all-payer rate' system encourages quality care. No other state has an all-payer system, which was designed in the 1970s to keep hospital reimbursement rates equal and therefore avoid differences in the quality of care" (March, 4/14).

The Boston Globe: "State public health officials yesterday disclosed that at least 474 patients contracted serious infections in Massachusetts hospitals during a one-year period, in a study that was part of a broad effort to help reduce the number of costly and sometimes fatal hospital-acquired infections through public reporting. The report - the first time the Department of Public Health has released hospital-specific infection data - showed that 71 of the 73 hospitals had infection rates at or below the national average from July 2008 to June 2009. The report did not say how many patients died, and it examined only two types of infections: patients who got bloodstream infections from intravenous lines during the full year, and surgical site infections from hip and knee operations for part of the year" (Kowalczyk, 4/15).

The Associated Press/MSNBC: "Consumer advocates are giving Illinois fairly good marks for an online report card meant to allow patients to choose hospitals based on their quality and safety records. But the report card doesn't get an A-plus. Patients can use the Web-based tool to see how their hospitals measure up on safety, nurse staffing levels and even prices. But national patient safety experts say they want the report card to use plainer language. Diane Pinakiewicz, president of the nonprofit National Patient Safety Foundation in Boston, praised the Illinois site, but said it contains jargon that's hard to understand. ... Consumers can compare hospitals of similar size and ask tough questions if their community hospital doesn't measure up. That public pressure could improve quality, she said. Not surprisingly, hospital leaders cautioned consumers about the report card's limits" (Johnson, 4/14).

Modern Healthcare: "Illinois' online Hospital Report Card database will now include additional, more specific information related to patient safety and quality of care. ... New features include data on central line-associated blood stream infections, updated hospital designations and emergency department volume. The site will now also provide risk-adjusted information for mortality and patient safety, coded with red, yellow or green symbols to denote whether the hospital's score is better, worse or on par with state and national averages" (McKinney, 4/14).

My Fox Illinois: "Sixty-three percent of Illinois patients described their hospital visit as 'highly satisfactory,' on par with national averages. ... Some hospitals, however, face a larger gap between the quality of clinical care and patient satisfaction" (McMorris, 4/14).

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