News Briefs

Leapfrog hospital survey gets tougher

This year, the Leapfrog Hospital Quality and Safety Survey will include the types of questions asked by other national initiatives such as The Joint Commission, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's 100,000 Lives campaign, says to the Washington, DC-based organization.

New survey questions will include the following:

  • What will your hospital do if they make a big mistake?
  • How well does my hospital treat my condition?
  • How open with the public is your hospital?

A new "Transparency Indicator" will show which hospitals are doing a good job at publicly reporting their quality and safety track records by giving credit for the other public reporting initiatives in which they participate. In addition, the survey will provide a more complete picture of how well a hospital performs one of seven high-risk procedures and how adequately they can treat low-birth-weight babies.

The first round of survey results will be posted at www.leapfroggroup.org/cp in early June. Leapfrog will use these results to determine the list of Leapfrog Top Hospitals 2007.

New Haven gets $3 million EHR grant for software

The Center for Community Health Leadership, an initiative sponsored by Raleigh, NC-based Misys Healthcare Systems, has selected Greater New Haven, CT, for a grant of health care software valued at $3 million. New Haven will be the first community to receive grants of electronic health record (EHR) software to establish a community-wide network of connected medical organizations.

The grants, in the form of EHR software, are available to health care professionals in New Haven and surrounding towns interested in participating in the initiative. The Hospital of Saint Raphael, a large teaching hospital in New Haven, played a major role championing the application process for the grant and will be an active leader advancing this initiative in the New Haven area.

The Center for Community Health Leadership says it selected New Haven as the center's first grant recipient because of the area's reputation for health care excellence, the strong commitment to data sharing exhibited by the physicians and nurses in the area, and their interest in electronically connecting all settings of care – hospital, physician offices, home care agencies and long-term care.

The center was launched in June 2006. The grant program accepted applications through the end of 2006 from interested communities across the country, as well as regional health care organizations including hospitals, physician offices, and home care agencies.

In addition to pledging a donation of up to $10 million in health care IT software to grant recipients, Intel and other partners will further assist grant recipients in the successful installation, training, and operation of health care technologies. Additional communities will be named as grant recipients by the Center for Community Health Leadership later in the year.

For additional information on the grant program from the Center for Community Health Leadership, please visit www.misyscenter.com.

California launches hospital report card site

A new web site, www.CalHospitalCompare.org, enables Californians to compare the performance of more than 200 hospitals statewide on a variety of quality measures from maternity services to cardiac treatment.

The free service allows consumers to search for hospitals by location, name, or by medical condition. Hospitals are rated on 50 performance indicators, including patient satisfaction measures and specific conditions, such as heart disease, maternity, and pneumonia.

CalHospitalCompare is the result of a two-year collaboration by The California Hospital Assessment and Reporting Taskforce, whose members include hospitals, health plans, doctors and nurses, consumer groups, employers, and the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). The data collection and analysis was performed by the University of California at San Francisco's Institute for Health Policy Studies.

Beyond consumers, CalHospitalCompare is also intended to benefit health care organizations. The report card is intended to provide health plans with relevant information to make decisions about which hospitals to include in their networks and offers hospitals reliable data to help improve the quality of care at their facilities. Physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals can use the data to make referral decisions.

CalHospitalCompare will be updated regularly with new measures. Future enhancements will include a Spanish-language version and an expanding set of performance measures; specifically, pediatric and intensive care measures will be added later this year.

Cost biggest barrier to health IT adoption

Hospitals continue to accelerate their use of health information technology, with 68% reporting that electronic health records had been fully or partially implemented as of fall 2006, according to the American Hospital Association's second annual survey of hospital health IT use.

About one-half of hospitals shared electronic patient data with others in both 2005 (53%) and 2006 (49%). Their most common partners included private-practice physician offices, laboratories, payers, and other hospitals.

Cost is the biggest barrier to greater adoption of health IT, with urban hospitals, teaching hospitals, and larger hospitals more likely to afford the investment, the survey found.

Forty-six percent of community hospitals reported moderate or high use of health IT, compared to 37% in 2005. Health IT use was determined by the number of clinical IT functions — such as medication order-entry, test results review, or clinical alerts — a hospital had implemented.

The AHA points out that while recent Department of Health and Human Services rules have lessened obstacles posed by the physician self-referral and anti-kickback laws, hospitals have been concerned that, under Internal Revenue Services rules, helping physicians access and use health IT could impact hospitals' tax-exempt status.

The latest indication from the IRS, according to the AHA, is that the new HHS rules would not jeopardize hospitals' tax-exempt status.