HCUP Quality and Performance Data Used by Consumer Health Ratings
Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP) data and reports on health care quality and performance are assets to an online health information site created to help consumers find quality information about health care. The Web site, ConsumerHealthRatings.com, provides a free, comprehensive listing of organizations that rate or report performance on specific hospitals, health plans, physicians, nursing homes, home health agencies, and other health care providers in the U.S.
The Web site recently added an HCUP statistical brief (#11), Hospitalizations Related to Childbirth 2003, to give site visitors information about relative costs and other pregnancy-related issues. Numerous other AHRQ reports on various topics are also found on the site.
ConsumerHealthRatings.com is the brainchild of Gretchen M. Dahlen, President of The Dahlen Company, LLC. She launched the online ratings site as a public service in June 2006, with the primary purpose of providing consumers with information they can use to make better-informed decisions about health care. The site has also proven useful to health care providers and administrators.
Dahlen has found AHRQ reports to be "tremendously informative." She notes, "The sheer number of AHRQ-linked reports on the Web site testifies to our impression of the usefulness of AHRQ data." The selected AHRQ reports often exhibit the values governing the Web site, such as shared responsibility, transparency, commitment to the Institute of Medicine's six quality aims, and leadership.
"You can't talk about health care quality in this country without mentioning AHRQ," Dahlen notes. "There is high compatibility between what AHRQ is doing and what Consumer Health Ratings can do to help consumers. Our shared priorities are to improve health and health care performance, lower costs, and improve how Americans live."
The site guides consumers to a library of online health care ratings on such topic categories as physician licensure and board certification, hospital quality ratings, health insurance plan ratings, nursing home quality, cost comparisons, and directories for doctors, dentists, hospitals, and other health care facilities. An additional category directs consumers to information on common diseases and conditions that drive utilization and costs.
"Few consumers realize how many health care report cards exist," Dahlen says. "No one source is sufficient to give consumers all they need, given the variety of players—Federal and state governments, accrediting agencies, state hospital associations, employers/purchasing coalitions, insurers, and entrepreneurs, to name a few."
She adds that nearly every state government shares physician licensing online at no charge. However, hospital and health plan information is often provided by a variety of non-profit associations, governments, and employer groups, which may be difficult for consumers to find. This is particularly true for people who live in a different state than their parents and are trying to help with health care issues long-distance.
Then there is the cost factor. Some companies offer quality and cost comparisons only to their members or to those who are willing to pay a fee. ConsumerHealthRatings.com provides general public access to reports and ratings that are free to everyone.
Founded in 1993, The Dahlen Company is located in Verona, Wisconsin. The company provides management consulting and seminars in strategic business planning, Six Sigma quality, and process improvement. It also conducts retreats for hospital boards and health care executives. Gretchen Dahlen is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, a former health care CEO, and an examiner for the Wisconsin Forward Award, a state-level Baldrige Quality program.
The Consumer Health Ratings Web site is available at www.consumerhealthratings.com.