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Wednesday, May 07, 2008 12:01 AM

Navigating Health Care: A New Web Site Helps Consumers Navigate the Health Care System

Rand: Have you ever wondered what other patients who use your hospital think about their hospital stays? What did they experience? Would they recommend the hospital to a friend? Well now you can know and use this information to make better decisions about where to find high quality care. A new Web site called Hospital Compare offers patient feedback on hospital stays nationwide. As we continue our conversation with AHRQ Director Dr. Carolyn Clancy, let’s talk about this new tool that can help consumers navigate the health care system. First, Dr. Clancy, would you please tell us what information consumers will find on the Hospital Compare Web site.

Dr. Clancy: Consumers will find three main types of information: Information about quality, survey information on patients’ experiences with their care and pricing information for specific procedures. For example, the Web site reports patients’ answers to more than two dozen questions about hospital care, including: How often did nurses explain things in a way you could understand? Did you get information in writing about what symptoms or health problems to watch out for once you leave the hospital? Would you recommend this hospital to your friends or family?

Rand: And how are consumers supposed to use this Web site?

Dr. Clancy: All of this information is useful because consumers can use it to make more effective decisions about the quality and value of the health care available to them through their local hospitals. Patients’ experiences are an important part of quality of care. Although hospitals have often asked patients what they thought about their hospital stays, the answers were not usually available to the public. And not having this information has made it harder for patients to compare hospitals adequately.

Rand: Do you see this having an effect on health care providers?

Dr. Clancy: Absolutely. Many hospitals are doing some things well, yet it’s clear that there’s more work to be done, especially in the critical area of communicating with their patients. I think the transparency with real patients and the actual care they received will help doctors, nurses, and hospital leaders know what they need to do to improve care at their facilities.

Rand: Dr. Clancy, thank you for joining us.

Dr. Clancy: You’re welcome.

Rand: Check out the Hospital Compare Web site online at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

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