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Hospitals May Start Getting Report Cards

A story from the December 2, 2001 Associated Press reported that the University of Oregon has begun an experiment involving "report cards" on hospital performance. The article starts off by saying, "Consumers have better information about buying cars or dishwashers than they do about hospitals that are best able to heal their ailments, health care critics say."

University of Oregon health care expert Judith Hibbard said, "We know that 98,000 people die every year in American hospitals as a result of medical errors." Hibbard goes on to say, "Most people assume the technical level of care at any hospital is high and so quality is more like customer satisfaction. But that's not true. Technical quality varies a great deal."

The study is being done in conjunction with a report card system being done in Wisconsin hospitals and compiled by the Employer Health Care Cooperative Alliance. The organization rated 24 hospitals in the Madison Wisconsin area on surgical and non-surgical care, assigning grades of above average, average, or below average for the level of mistakes, complications and deaths.

There are detractors to the idea. Dr. Lucian Leape of the Harvard School of Public Health, co-author of a groundbreaking Institute of Medicine national report in 1999 on hospital death rates that exposed devastating death rates due to medical mistakes, said he fears the report card could discourage improvements or mislead consumers. "It's a variant of the shaming approach to child behavior. And I just think shaming is a bad idea. It's not a good idea for school children and it's not a good idea for hospitals either."