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Hospitals May Begin Getting Report Cards

A story from the December 2, 2001 Associated Press reported that the University of Oregon has initiated an experiment involving "report cards" on hospital performance. This article begins by saying, "Consumers have more knowledge about buying cars or dishwashers than they do about hospitals which can be best able to heal their ailments, health care critics say."

University of Oregon health care expert Judith Hibbard said, "We are aware that 98,000 people die yearly in American hospitals due to medical errors." Hibbard procedes to say, "Most people assume the technical level of care at any hospital is high therefore quality is more like customer satisfaction. But that is not the case. Technical quality varies considerably." The study is being done in conjunction with a report card system being carried out in Wisconsin hospitals and compiled by the Employer Health Care Cooperative Alliance. The organization rated 24 hospitals within the Madison Wisconsin area on surgical and non-surgical care, assigning grades of above average, average, or below average for the degree of mistakes, complications and deaths.
There are certainly detractors to the idea. Dr. Lucian Leape of the Harvard School of Public Health, co-author of the groundbreaking Institute of Medicine national report in 1999 on hospital death rates that exposed devastating death rates as a result of 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 imagine shaming could be a bad idea. It is not a good suggestion for school children and it is not recommended for hospitals either."

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