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Commentary

Shop and Compare Hospital Care
Bob Moos, The Dallas Morning News, 3-5-06

Moos underscores Newt Gingrich’s argument that transparency in the pricing and quality of healthcare services will help consumers drive business to the most efficient and effective firms. Moos writes that, in a few crucial areas, hospitals have embraced the underlying concept of information transparency.

Most of the nation's hospitals have started measuring the quality of their care and reporting the information to government agencies and private groups that collect it, verify it and post it on the Internet.
With a few clicks of the mouse, consumers can find out how local hospitals stack up against one another and the averages on about 20 standards of care.
One of the most popular Web sites is Medicare's, which shows how well 4,200 hospitals follow generally accepted guidelines for treating heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia and preventing surgical infections.
"People used to judge hospitals only by what their families and friends told them. They now have more to go on," said Marianne Fazen, director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Business Group on Health.

The initial impetus for this movement, Moos writes, was a 1999 report from the Institute of Medicine that found that medical errors may cause as many as 98,000 U.S. deaths every year.

While the landscape of healthcare is definitely changing for the better, a more recent report from RAND found that patients still receive recommended standards of care only about 55% of the time. Information is power, and the more information patients have, the more power they will have to demand better healthcare.



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