Many in the healthcare industry continue to advocate against the publication of more data, claiming that it only “misleads” the public.
Going to the hospital to have gallbladder surgery does not have anything in common with going to Target to buy a new pair of jeans. Right?
While no one thinks of it in those terms, the truth is that, in most cases, both having surgery and buying new clothes are transactions that consumers make with private businesses.The goal of the Target store and the hospital (unless its a public facility) are to make money. And the goal of the consumer is to purchase a good or have a service performed.
Because medical care is often a critical need, many community members tend to ignore the reality that hospitals, medical clinics, and other healthcare providers are private entities which act like any other business. While the health care industry may have more regulations under which to abide and be filled with employees committed to the greater good, at the end of the day the profit motive does not disappear.
Because medical care is a business, many patient safety advocates are hoping to teach medical patients to make health care choices in the same way that they make other consumer transactions. Before buying new jeans, you may compare prices at different stores, read reviews, and even try on a few pairs to get an idea of what is the best for you. Shouldn’t you take the same approach to selecting medical caregivers or surgeons?
Make Informed Choices About Medical Facilities
Patient safety advocates are hoping that medical malpractice can be minimized–and hospitals forced to improve their care–when more medical patients “punish” facilities for errors by taking their business elsewhere.
Reaching this goal requires two steps. First, reliable and accurate data on hospital quality must be made available in a convenient format for patients. Fortunately, more hospital data is available now than ever before. As a New York Times story discussed last month, more quality lists continue to be made available to consumers which measure hospitals on various quality and safety indicators. From Consumer Reports to U.S. New Reports, more publications are compiling these annual lists, usually using freely available federal data based on mandatory reporting laws following “adverse events” in hospitals.
That is not to say that there is complete sunshine on hospital practices. The healthcare industry continues to advocate against the publication of more data, claiming that it only “misleads” the public. There is also much disagreement about the quality of the available data, with some suggesting too much reliance on hospital “self-reports” which are not trustworthy indicators.
In addition to simply making the data available, it is incumbent upon medical patients to actually get in the habit of using this data to make facility choices. All hospitals and medical clinics are not the same in terms of preventing errors and ensuring standards of care are kept up at all times. A bit of research into available option can go a long way to ensuring you are best positioned to receive proper medical care free of preventable negligence. It is only when patients actually use the data that the published information can be used to improve medical care via pressure on the hospital’s bottom line.
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