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June 2010

 

A Polsinelli Shughart Health Care Update:

Illinois Expands Consumer-Oriented Tools for Assessing Provider Quality

 

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) recently expanded the Hospital Report Card and Consumer Guide to Health Care Web site by updating and adding new categories of data. The Hospital Report Card and Consumer Guide to Health Care Web site was originally launched in November 2009 as part of the implementation of the Hospital Report Card Act (210 ILCS 86). Under this legislation, all Illinois hospitals are required to report quality data regarding nursing care and infection control on a quarterly basis to the IDPH.

Updated data is now available on the IDPH consumer Web site that includes the following hospital specific information:

  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality indicators
  • Surgical Care Improvement Project Measures relating to antibiotic administration
  • Nurse staffing allowances by units along with nursing vacancy rates and turnover information
  • Patient satisfaction information as compared to State and national averages
  • Inpatient and outpatient conditions, procedures and charges for both hospitals and ambulatory surgical treatment centers

The IDPH updates cover the period of July 2008 through June 2009.

The additional data categories recently added to the Web site include, among other things:

  • Central line infection rates
  • Emergency department volume and time on bypass
  • Risk-adjusted data for mortality and patient safety (better, average, worse)

The IDPH intends that, through the substantial updates and changes implemented last month, consumers will be able to continue to make more informed treatment decisions with more information than they had before. IDPH also intends to hold medical providers more accountable for the quality of the services they provide.

The state’s initiative to provide hospital data to consumers is neither new nor unique to Illinois. There is a national interest for all health care organizations to be publicly accountable for the care they provide. There are many efforts that seek to measure quantifiable or technical components of provider quality, such as infection rates and readmissions. Other initiatives focus on patient satisfaction and still many others rely on external process review by third-party accrediting organizations. No single approach has developed as the gold standard.

Ultimately, consumers may have clear perspectives on quality care but those perspectives often do not align with the perspective of the health care professionals working in the care system. Consumers emphasize the care experience or their satisfaction with services rendered while health care professionals tend to focus on technical aspects such as outcomes, efficiencies and cost. Also, while consumers believe that it is the facility that is responsible for the care they receive, for most consumers, that care is usually more ancillary to diagnosis and treatment provided by their physician.

IDPH and Illinois Hospital Association Web Sites are Complementary

Soon after the IDPH launch, the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) launched its own consumer-focused Web site titled “Illinois Hospitals Caring for You.” IHA intends for its Web site to be complementary to the IDPH Web site.

The IHA Web site is not only formatted differently than the IDPH Web site, but it is also substantively different. While the IDPH Web site places the majority of its focus on qualitative issues, the IHA Web site places more focus on general information about each hospital and its scope of services, which lends itself to acting as a marketing tool for Illinois hospitals. Like the IDPH tool, the IHA Web site also allows the user to compare one hospital to another.

Ultimately providers and regulators may agree that it is in everyone’s interest to have an educated consumer base in Illinois, and the IDPH’s Web site along with the IHA Web site are new tools to be tested.

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