Shopping for a hospital might sound overwhelming or impossible for patients caught in the swirl of medical data and terms they don't see on an everyday basis. A new option for Arizona patients is 2011 Arizona Hospital Compare. But even the state admits it's not perfect.
We shop online for the best airline ticket, the best books and the best hotels online. And now, you can shop for the best place to get heart surgery or have a kid. But unlike the other sites this is 2011 information. You're deciding based on what happened two years ago. And a hospital stay usually isn't how we want to spend our money in the first place.
"Expenses are very large," said Jan Miller, as she sat in a public computer lab. She wants to get the most bang for her buck.
"(It) really needs to be excellent, it needs to be attentive, and sometimes that can be challenging at hospitals," Miller said.
And she said that she needs surgery for her sight. We show her 2011 Arizona Hospital Compare, with ratings for quality and averages of cost for specific procedures at local hospitals.
"It opens up a lot of information that I feel is necessary," Miller said.
"They're a starting point. It's one of those things where before, we had no information, now at least we have some," said Donna Courtney, hospital data manager with the Bureau of Health Statistics in the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The Arizona Department of Health Services said that it's using what state licensed hospitals are required to report by law. Compare their average prices for a procedure, whether it's Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or self-pay, which is when you're paying for it. And see how they're performing in areas from childbirth to surgeries. The ratings range from below to above average.
And it's not just patients who check out how each place stacks up. The hospitals can take note where they stand too.
"My hope is that if they look at it and they see something that they don't like, that will make them look and say, is this care, is this data reporting? What is it that's causing the thing that we don't like and what can we do to fix it?" Courtney said.
"We do take it seriously," said Dr. Rick Anderson, chief medical officer for Tucson Medical Center.
He looked at where TMC stands among other area hospital, and saw both a benefit and raised a concern with what patients see there.
In surgery safety alone, TMC performed above average in a variety of areas. It did better than all other area hospitals in keeping patients from dying from undiagnosed problems. And it was above average in avoiding blood clots, along with Northwest Medical Center, Oro Valley Hospital, Carondelet St. Mary's and St. Joseph's as well as University of Arizona Medical Center.
But in the area of hip fractures after surgery, TMC showed below average, which was below the other hospitals that were considered average. That is an area in which Dr. Anderson said that TMC has already been making improvements versus what is shown in the database.
"So, it may not actually reflect what that hospital has been working on, or the hospital may have improved in those areas, and we just don't have that data," Dr. Anderson said.
"If a hospital says that, it may very well be true. So, when the 2012 comes out, take a look," Courtney said.
Navigating the site can be a challenge. Courtney pointed out that the website includes explanations under each question mark in an orange ball on the screen.
The next step is to add emergency department ratings for 2012. But the department is not prepared to give an estimate when the next database will be available.
Getting the information posted faster is also a goal. But Courtney said that there is little wiggle room because laws are strict on when this info can be gathered.
2011 Arizona Hospital Compare:
U.S. News and World Report hospital rankings:
Medicare Hospital Compare:
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