Web site offers hospital qualities

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Joanie Morris

Kannapolis Citizen

CONCORD — You wouldn’t buy a car without doing a little bit of checking — maybe comparing prices or types of cars with other cars in the area.

So, NorthEast Medical Center officials agree, why would you go to a hospital without knowing about its quality of work?

Now, patients can go online to check the quality of the hospital they are considering for care.

At www.NCHospitalQuality.org, patients can look at the quality of service of every hospital in North Carolina. It’s part of a bigger effort to keep patients across the United States informed about their local hospitals, say NorthEast Medical Center officials. The site shows comparative data of every hospital in North Carolina on four different areas of care — heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and surgical infection prevention. The state is broken into six different regions and data is offered for only Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2005, and April 1, 2005, through March 31, 2006. Hospital officials said more data is on the way, including stroke data, as well as infection rates and mortality rates.

Leesa Bain, vice president of Outcomes Management at NorthEast Medical Center, said the North Carolina Hospital Authority, which manages and maintains the site, decided to offer the site as a way for patients to make educated choices about their health care.

“This is N.C.’s way of saying, ‘We think this is important,’ ” said Bain. “We had been working on (data) for so long, we were excited about it coming out.”

Once logged onto the site, a patient has several choices. To see reports about N.C.’s hospitals, click on “reports.” Then, the patient chooses the date from the dropdown menu and the condition (heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia or surgical infection prevention).

Once they choose a condition, the patient selects a region of North Carolina to get data from. The data comes in graphs, charts or a PDF format to download onto a computer.

In the heart failure category, NorthEast Medical Center has a grade of 96 percent. That means that they offered the correct “bundle” of care to patients 96 percent of the time. The bundle includes administration of an ACE inhibitor, a heart assessment, discharge instructions to patients, smoking counseling and the overall care heart failure patients received.

The statewide average in this category was 78 percent.

This information is not news or new to NorthEast Medical Center. Lee Brower, director of Communications for NorthEast, said patients have had access to collected data on the NorthEast Web site for about three years and in the industry, “we’re finding out that about 70 percent of patients in hospitals today are going to get some form of health-care information from a Web site.”

“We were trying to be out there in the public for some time,” Bain added.

Dr. Paul Campbell, a cardiologist at the Heart Group of the Carolinas, said the site will help patients decide where to go for services.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” said Campbell, who feels the site puts to use data that NorthEast has been compiling for several years. Campbell said the site will not only help patients determine their service providers, but helps those service providers determine where they can improve.

“We’ve been able to determine where we’re doing well, where we’re not and what we can change,” said Campbell. The site, he added, offers objective proof for patients, doctors and others to see what’s going on at North Carolina hospitals. “The whole shift is a shift towards quality.”

Campbell said he sees the Web site as a way to level the playing field by comparing “apples to apples.”

He calls the site a great opportunity, because doctors and hospitals won’t get better if they don’t know what they are not doing well. The more hospitals are pushed to quality and the more patients have access to the type of data on the Web site, the more patients will see hospitals improving.

“If you do good work, you’re going to sell it,” Campbell said.

“It’s giving patients access to quality data from various hospitals,” Campbell said. “It’s a culture of continual improvement. You never reach 100 percent. …

“Our effort over the past several years seems to be paying off,” said Campbell. “People have a choice.”

Every month for more than 10 years, Campbell has a meeting with heart doctors, nurses, dietitians and other heart-care professionals about patients with congestive heart failure to determine where they can improve.

“This is not just physicians,” Campbell said. “It’s a commitment from the whole organization. It is a team approach and it doesn’t end when they leave the hospital.”

The Web site “shows that quality is important,” Campbell added. “The data looks very good (for NorthEast). It didn’t happen overnight.”

Contact Joanie Morris at 704-932-3336 or jmorris@kannapoliscitizen.com.