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By Monica E. Oss

August 15, 2011

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are continuing their push for transparency in the field by launching the Quality Care Finder. This will allow Medicare beneficiaries to compare quality measures among their local hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, and other health care facilities.

The consumer ratings are based on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS), which is the same patient survey that CMS is using in its existing Medicare Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program and its value-based purchasing (VBP) program (CMS Value-Based Purchasing to Reward Hospitals for Performance ). If you’re not familiar with the rating system, now would be a good time to learn more. It is likely that many other payers—both private plans and state Medicaid plans—will adopt these measures in the future.

I ran a little experiment with the CMS Quality website this afternoon and learned more about its capabilities. I found that for each measure, you can compare a local health resource to other local resources – and to state and national benchmarks. The chart below illustrates the kind of comparisons that consumers can make. I selected the three hospitals closest to my home in Gettysburg and compared their scores on discharge instructions. (As you can see, all three facilities are close to the state and national averages.)

Were patients given information about what to do during their recovery at home?
Hospital Site Yes No
Average For All Reporting Hospitals In The United States 82% 18%
Average For All Reporting Hospitals In Pennsylvania 82% 18%
Chambersburg Hospital 81% 19%
Gettysburg Hospital 86% 14%
Hanover Hospital 82% 18%

What are the likely market effects of these measures? We have already seen the statistics about consumers using the Internet to select health care services (Follow Your Consumers…To The Internet all members). And, in the future, I can see physicians and facilities starting to advertise about how “above average” they are on particular measures. This is the first of what will likely be many steps toward consumer-focused transparency on the value of health care services – both quality and cost. And, while the current measures are not specific to treatment for mental illnesses or addictions, I would expect to see those in the near future.

If you’re on the payer side of the health care equation, this is a new tool for assessing the “value” of the professionals and provider organizations in your plan. If you’re on the service provider side of the equation, the question is this: if consumers rate your facility, what will they say and how will you measure up?

Monica E. Oss
Chief Executive Officer, OPEN MINDS

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For more information, see: What Is Your Quality Ranking? all members 

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