I’m away on a business trip and happened to read an article in the USA Today sitting outside my hotel room door that ticked me off. The feds spent $1.9 million in advertising to push their “Hospital Compare” web site. They want the public to compare different aspects of hospital care before deciding to go to the hospital. Another article on the topic from Yahoo is here.
Supposedly the ads are to further the Bush administration’s goal to “increase transparency” in the health care system.
Do the ads mention that the “quality” initiatives requiring that antibiotics be given within 4 hours of a pneumonia diagnosis actually “raises the risk of misdiagnosis and inappropriate use of antibiotics?” In other words, if doctors follow the initiatives, patients can potentially do worse.
Do the ads mention that another initiative requiring doctors to perform blood cultures before giving antibiotics has absolutely no effect on clinical outcome? Do they mention that this requirement increases the length of stay by 4.5 days and increases the cost of hospitalization by over $5000 when “false positive” cultures are obtained (which occurs almost as often as “true” positives)?
Of course not. They just pit one hospital against another – twisting the thumb screws to make one hospital look bad if it doesn’t adhere to some of these nonsensical quality measures.
I still can’t figure out why CMS and the Bush administration have they excluded all the VA and military hospitals from their “hospital compare” web site if they are sooooo into transparency. Try searching for Walter Reed Army Medical Center or Tripler Army Medical Center on the site. Plug in the name of any of the VA hospitals in your area. Magically, according to the Hospital Compare database, government-run hospitals don’t exist.
OK, CMS … you want other hospitals to shape up? Get your own house in order first. Put that $1.9 million to a better cause – like taking care of the soldiers who have sacrificed their lives and their health supporting this country’s initiatives instead of leaving them “stranded in unfit conditions,” “neglected,” and “waiting four months for the results of important medical tests”. Video testimony about the conditions in Walter Reed Hospital can be found here.
“Do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t cut it. When you get the conditions at your hospitals in the top 10%, send me an e-mail.
I won’t hold my breath.