CMS (Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services) says there is a new tool aimed at patients and caregivers, as well as some other initiatives which will help consumers make informed choices regarding their health care. CMS adds that it should help improve care quality in US doctors’ offices, nursing homes and hospitals.

Dr. Don Berwick, the CMS Administrator, said:

“These tools are new ways CMS is making sure consumers have information about health care quality and important information they need to make the best decisions about where to receive high-quality care. These efforts are designed to also encourage providers to deliver safe, patient-centered care that consumers can rely on and will motivate improvement across our health care system.”

The steps include:

  • A Quality Care Finder – Medicare beneficiaries can go online and access all Medicare’s Compare tools, with information on nursing homes, hospitals and plans.
  • Hospital Compare Website – now updated with information on how hospitals rate for outpatient care, surgical infections.

    Also tells you how each outpatient is treated for suspected heart attack, whether proven therapies that reduce mortality are used. Also includes 30-day mortality rates and 30-day readmission rates for inpatients with heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure. Three full years of claims data are compared.

    Also includes 10 measures related to patient experience with hospital care.

  • Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) program – now improved. QIQs provide resources and technical assistance to health care providers nationally to help them adapt to changing healthcare needs in nursing homes, doctors’ offices, and hospitals.

30-day mortality rates for heart attack have continued to drop in 2011. In the 2006-2009 period the rate was 16.2%, while in 2007 through 2010 it dropped to 15.9%.

Mortality rates for heart failure rose from 11.2% to 11.3% during the same periods.

Mortality rates for pneumonia also rose from 11.6 to 11.9.

30-day readmission rates were as follows:

  • Heart attack
    2007 through 2010 – 19.8%
    2006 through 2009 – 19.9%
  • Heart failure
    2007 through 2010 – 24.8%
    2006 through 2009 – 24.5%
  • Pneumonia
    2007 through 2010 – 18.4%
    2006 through 2009 – 18.2%

Dr. Berwick said:

“Both sets of inpatient measures are risk-adjusted, taking health conditions into account to ‘level the playing field’ among hospitals and to help ensure accuracy in performance reporting.”

Patrick Conway, M.D., M.Sc., CMS chief medical officer and director of the agency’s Office of Clinical Standards and Quality, said:

“Patient-centeredness means that every decision that’s made and every program that’s established is focused on patients and their families. QIOs will promote this concept by including beneficiaries and front line clinicians in quality improvement initiatives, learning and action networks and communications. Listening to the voices of patients and staying focused on their outcomes and experiences are essential to achieve care centered on the patient.”

Written by Christian Nordqvist