Hospitals Should Report to the Public

The Cedar Rapids Gazette 01/11/2009, Page A06

Hospitals Should Report to the Public
By Garth Bowen

Congratulations to St.Luke's Hospital and its team of nurses, doctors and other staff for recently being recognized as one of 13 "highest value" hospitals in the nation. More than 1,200 hospitals were reviewed in the annual Leapfrog Hospital Survey. This achievement is especially important for consumers, patients and their families, as well as purchasers. It is based upon high quality and efficient use of resources. The award was presented by The Leapfrog Group, a national independent organization of employers and consumers.

Consumers and purchasers are demanding quality and cost effectiveness. St. Luke's demonstrates that it is possible to deliver quality health care and keep costs lower by using expensive health care resources efficiently. We think other Iowa hospitals might be doing well too, but we can't tell since most have chosen not to publicly report to The Leapfrog Group.

The Leapfrog Group is the first national quality organization to evaluate and identify hospitals that provide excellent quality and at the same time demonstrate appropriate uses of resources for specific procedures. The hospitals were designated "highest value" based on efficiency scores — a combination of their quality and resource utilization scores — for coronary artery bypass graft, percutaneous coronary interventions, treatment of acute myocardial infarction and pneumonia care.

The Leapfrog Group focuses on patient safety, informing choice, rewarding excellence and getting health care right. It was founded in 2000 by the Business Roundtable and is supported by its members, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The Commonwealth Fund, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other sources.

As a regional rollout leader for The Leapfrog Group, the Iowa Health Buyers Alliance invited 41 greater Iowa hospitals to publicly report their quality and patient safety information.

So far, 10 have reported. In addition to St. Luke's, others reporting are Genesis Medical Center in Davenport; Mayo Clinic Rochester-St Mary's, Rochester, Minn.; Mayo Clinic Rochester; Methodist, Rochester, Minn; Olmsted Medical Center Hospital in Rochester, Minn.; Austin Medical Center in Austin, Minn.; Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center in La Crosse, Wis.; and the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics in Madison. Wis.

Area hospitals that so far have declined to report their quality and safety scores include Cedar Rapids Mercy, the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Iowa City and three hospitals in Waterloo/Cedar Falls: Allen Hospital, Covenant Medical Center and Sartori Memorial Hospital. They should be encour aged to report to the customers and community they serve.

There are four Leapfrog Leaps in hospital quality, safety and affordability. First, computer physician order entry. It has been shown to reduce serious prescribing errors in hospitals by more than 50 percent.

Second, evidence-based hospital referral. By referring patients needing certain complex medical procedures to hospitals offering the best survival odds, research indicates that a patient's risk of dying could be reduced by 40 percent.

Third, intensive care unit physician staffing. Staffing intensive care units with doctors who have special training in critical care medicine has shown to reduce the risk of patients dying in the ICU by 40 percent.

Fourth, national quality forum — 30 safe practices that, if utilized, would reduce the risk of harm.

Consumers, patients and their families can view the quality results by individual hospital for each of the 1,220 or so hospitals reporting by going to www.leapfroggroup and clicking on "for consumers." Click one more time and you can compare hospital performance by city, state, zip code or by hospital.

Become an educated and informed consumer on where to get your care. Quality does matter. There is variation in quality, outcomes of care and mortality between hospitals.

Check out this information.

Also, encourage your hospital to publicly report its quality scores to The Leapfrog Group so it can be compared with other hospitals in the area and region. The time has come.

Garth Bowen of Cedar Rapids is a member of the United Steelworkers International Union and is labor chair of the Iowa Health Buyers Alliance ( ), an association of health care customers (consumers and purchasers) for a patient-centered health system, improved quality, wellness and increased transparency and public disclosure.