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Hospital Quality Info on Web Can Be Misleading
Date:9/18/2007

Inconsistent, dated data leave consumers confused, study finds

TUESDAY, Sept. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Trying to get accurate information on a hospital's quality by looking at Web sites can leave would-be patients frustrated, due to partial or dated data, a new study finds.

In looking over six hospital-comparison Web sites, researchers found they produced inconsistent results and used inappropriate or incomplete standards to measure a center's quality, according to the report in the September issue of the Archives of Surgery.

"Patients are using the Internet to find health-related quality information, and the information is out there," noted lead researcher Dr. Michael J. Leonardi, from the department of surgery at David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles. "But the information is inconsistent and varies from Web site to Web site," he said.

A lot of Web sites try to rank hospitals, Leonardi said. But because there is no standard way of calculating quality differences, Internet sites come up with different results for the same hospitals, he noted.

In the study, Leonardi's group searched the Internet to find publicly available hospital quality comparison sites. They found six sites and rated them on accessibility, transparency of the data and statistical calculations, appropriateness, consistency and timeliness.

Among the sites they evaluated were the U.S. government's "Hospital Compare," from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In addition, they looked at the following nonprofit sites: "Quality Check," from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations and the Leapfrog Group's "Hospital Quality and Safety Survey Results." The other sites were run by private companies.

Leonardi's team compared listed hospitals for three common procedures: laparoscopic gallbladder removal, hernia repair and colon removal.

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