Louisiana hospitals post price, quality data online

CMS, JCAHO measures used for initial postings

The general public in Louisiana now can access price and quality information for all the hospitals in the state at Louisiana Hospital Inform (www.lahealthinform.org), a web site launched by the Louisiana Hospital Association (LHA). Data for each hospital include the average Medicare charge range for common inpatient and outpatient services; quality scores for heart attack, pneumonia, and surgical infection prevention from the Hospital Quality Alliance; and clinical services offered.

"On the home page, there is a search function, which allows you either to search by parish, or conduct an advanced search," explains Chris Vidrine, the LHA's director of policy and rural affairs. "Individual hospitals come up [on the page]. After that, you can click 'view reports' and get a hospital profile. Then, you can choose from inpatient services, outpatient services, or quality measures."

The quality measures sections list the measure, condition, indicators, number of patients the hospital had, its score, the national average, the national 90th percentile, and state average.

Legislature exerts pressure

The impetus for the site actually came from the state legislature, says Vidrine. "We were given lots of pressure at the legislature to be more transparent — and this is becoming a national issue," he recalls. "We also wanted to create a web site where the consumer had access to quality and pricing information."

Doing one or the other — but not both — is not sufficient, he argues. "Having both of them together in one place would give consumers more relevant information that they can then use in making a decision on a hospital," he explains. "While we started out with measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, we plan on expanding that."

The LHA put together a quality expert panel, comprised of hospital quality managers, and a CFO expert panel to guide the development of the two main areas of the site. "We then contracted with American Hospital Directory (www.ahd.com, based Louisville, KY) to actually create the site," says Vidrine.

Future expansion possible

The state's hospitals were supportive of the idea, but they were emphatic about not wanting to be inundated with more required reports, he continues. "They said, 'If you can find the information you need from data we are already reporting, we're happy to do this,'" says Vidrine. "This company had lots of good information; they get the CMS quality data, and they handled the pricing as well through MedPar."

The pricing, he explains, is for the 25 most common procedures by DRG. "We list the high, low, and average charges," he shares.

Vidrine says it is possible the site will be adding more categories in the future. "We don't know for sure yet," he concedes. "When we initially planned the site, we wanted to go through focus groups and so forth. Then, the hurricane [Katrina] hit. We had promised the legislature we would publish a site with price and quality data, and in order to stay true to that promise, we did it as fast as we could; we had about three and one-half months."

From this point on, the LHA will appoint a more formal advisory group composed of one or two legislators, business and insurance executives, and hospital administrators. "We will count on them to work with the quality expert panel and the CFO group to guide the future composition of the site," he says.

Vidrine reports that the web site is averaging 200 hits a day. "The questions we've gotten from consumers have been mostly about quality – wanting to know about different infection rates, survival rates, and so forth," he observes. "It shows you the public is really interested in quality."

Vidrine is convinced the site ultimately will lead to improved quality of care. "When people start posting their measures on quality, they start competing with each other [for better scores]," he explains. "And when they start competing, quality goes up."

For more information, contact:

Chris Vidrine, Director of Policy and Rural Affairs, Louisiana Hospital Association, 9521 Brookline Avenue, Baton Rouge, LA 70809. Phone: (225) 928-0026.