A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

New Outpatient Measures on Website

New Outpatient Measures on Website

July 8, 2010

Hospitalcompare, a website created by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with data on quality of care provided to Medicare patients in hospitals across the U.S., recently added some new measures looking at the quality of outpatient care. Learn more in this Globe story.

The new measures include looking at the use of imaging, both looking at potential cases of overuse (when an MRI is ordered for low back pain before trying physical therapy or other measures) and cases when imaging is used appropriately (follow-up for women whose mammograms indicate the need for further testing). There are also some new measures looking at diabetes care.

While the hospitalcompare website is pretty user-friendly and includes lots of explanatory materials, this user found it difficult to get some of the information. For example, in trying to locate data on diabetes care, I gave up trying after attempting in a number of ways to access the information. A fact sheet about outpatient vs. inpatient care did not come up when clicked on. Presumably these issues will be worked out, but it is unfortunate that such problems arise at a time when there is publicity about the new measures.

This just points to the need to not only create websites for consumers but to make sure they are actually useful to consumers and will encourage them to continue to use the resource and tell others about it. You often hear that “consumers don’t use quality data to make health care decisions.” Well, sure, if it doesn’t get consumers the kind of information they are looking for or if trying to navigate the site leads to frustration!

Despite the frustration, kudos to HHS for adding new measures to the website!

-Deborah Wachenheim