Web site measures quality of care

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University Hospital believes it is tops in quality and is reshaping its Web site to prove it.

The hospital's board met Thursday to see a newly revamped Quality Web site that features a comparison to other area hospitals taken from Medicare's Hospital Compare rankings. The ratings look at specific quality measures -- such as the percentage of patients suffering a heart attack who receive aspirin when they arrive at the hospital, and in a number of other different areas.

It also includes a patient survey. University listed all rankings for each Augusta hospital and Aiken Regional Medical Centers on the page, along with explanations as to why each measure would be important.

Hospital Compare only allows a side-by-side comparison of three hospitals at a time, and the site is awkward to use, said Erica Cline, University's Web site administrator.

University comes off well in the comparison, said J. Larry Read, CEO of University Health Care System.

"If you look at them overall, we scored very strongly in every category," he said. "Our board thought we have a good story to tell and we need to tell the public about it. And we can put it in a format that is accessible to them and one that they can easily read."

Other hospital Web sites -- such as that of Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics, link to quality comparison Web sites such as Hospital Compare and HealthGrades. But many comparison Web sites rely chiefly on data collected through Medicare billing, not direct clinical data, said Dave Snyder, the chief quality officer for MCG Health Inc., which runs the health system.

Medicare patients also do not make up a majority of patients for many hospitals, particularly at a place such as MCG Hospital and Clinics, which has a large pediatric population, he said.

"Medicare data is only a small part of the picture, and yet it unduly weights the evaluations that are portrayed on these Web sites to suggest hospital quality," Dr. Snyder said, although broader surveys are beginning and the evaluations should improve.

Trinity Hospital of Augusta recently redesigned its Web site and temporarily lost a link to Hospital Compare, but it will soon be added back, said spokeswoman Rachel Covar.

Doctors Hospital did not include its quality numbers on its Web site in part out of concern that the information is too old to be useful, said spokeswoman Olena Scarboro.

The information covers July 2007 to June 2008, Ms. Cline said, but University's information from the fourth quarter of 2008 will also be accessible on the Quality Web site.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.


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