Consumer Tool to Compare Hospital Performance and Cost
By Jack Urquhart
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid have a useful tool for comparing and evaluating hospital cost and performance. The tool may be accessed by copying this link: http://medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid is the agency responsible for the federal administration of both Medicare, a single-payer federal program, and Medicaid, a shared responsibility of the federal government and the governments of each state.
While certainly not a perfect guide to hospital choice, this online tool provides invaluable information for patients, public officials and anyone interested in health care and health care policy.
For example, University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston, Texas, is reported as charging Medicare significantly more per patient for specific services than the national average. On the other hand, this same hospital was rated significantly lower by patient surveys than the national average in most categories, including cleanliness.
The CMS tool contains a great deal more than patient surveys. Again, by way of example, UTMB-Galveston, while charging more per patient than the national average, rates no more than average in virtually every measured category.
As UTMB-Galveston is a state supported hospital, this imbalance between cost and performance is important.
My guess is few patients are aware of this online comparative information.
Public officials, on the other hand, should be well aware of the CMS data. Of course, considerable data from many sources raises significant questions about the cost and quality of medical care in Texas. It is average or worse compared with most other states that perform better and less expensively,
During this election cycle, Texas elected officials, and those desiring election, need to explain their plan, if any, for improving Texas health care performance and reducing its cost. Texas has little feasible excuse for hospitals charging more per patient while achieving mediocre results.
As the state continues to under perform, its entire public health care policy cries out for scrutiny.