Although designed for use by consumers, pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can use it too

Tally up the State of Washington as the latest to implement a program to bring greater transparency to patient outcomes produced by different hospitals. In recent months, the rates of healthcare associated infections (HAI) in Washington State hospitals became available on the Internet for public viewing.

Just like patients shopping for a hospital that meets their needs, pathologists and clinical laboratory managers can visit this website and compare the HAI rates for different hospitals in the state. Washington State launched this initiative in conformance with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

It was January, 2010 when the Washington State Department of Health (DOH), announced the opening of its hospital infection rate website to report on two specific types of infections—central line bloodstream infections and ventilator associated pneumonia.

The announcement included information that the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) would also post the same data on its own “Quality Indicators Search Page.”

Feds Not Ready to Receive the Data, But Washington State Moves Forward

It was 2009 when the federal government passed ARRA. The feds established a website where states can apply for some of the $50 million in funds earmarked “to support states in the prevention and reduction of healthcare-associated infections (HAI).” The government, however, has yet to implement a mechanism by which states can fulfill their obligation under the law to report HAI data.

To do something with this information in the interim, the state legislature passed HB 2828 – 2009-10. This requires Washington State’s hospitals to report certain healthcare data and gives instructions on where to send it.

That is why this data is now on the Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA) “Quality Indicators Search Page,” where patients can compare the rates of HAI at hospitals statewide against both the state’s average as well as the national average.

Quality Information on Quality of Healthcare

The multiple ways that the data can be sorted and viewed gives medical laboratory administrators an idea of how future outcomes reporting arrangements are likely to present the performance of clinical laboratories and anatomic pathology groups. On the Washington State website, the data is sortable by hospital name and county, as well as by numerous medical specifics, including:

Infection Type:

  • Ventilator pneumonia infections
  • Central line infections

Surgery Type:

  • Cardiac
  • Ortho
  • Hysterectomy

Medical Condition:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Pneumonia
  • Surgical care
  • Patient satisfaction
  • Children’s asthma
  • Medical imaging

The data is also sortable by the Success Rate (compared to state and national averages) of specific preventative measures hospitals took to avoid possible infection. In addition, users can narrow the field of search to a specific item from the list above, such as Heart Attack, and then investigate the success rates of specific hospitals, based on type of infection as well as the specific treatment performed.

Perhaps, though, cross sorting and cross referencing data isn’t your cup of tea? Well then, you’re in luck. Simply click on the name of the hospital in which you’re most interested, and a window opens showing all the available data on that hospital neatly aligned into a readable format.

For example, when clicking on the Auburn Regional Medical Center (chosen solely because when the hospitals are sorted alphanumerically, its name is at the top of the list), a window opens containing the hospital’s street address, telephone number, hospital type (acute care) and whether it is privately owned or public, and if owned, who is the owner.

Below that, the columned data is categorized by Condition, Description and Infection Rate. Next to that is the state average, the national average and the top 10 hospital’s average for that infection rate.

This wealth of information is actually usable to the healthcare consumer shopping for the best choice for their specific healthcare needs. Consumer groups have praised this effort, calling it a positive step toward transparency in Washington State’s healthcare system.

State by state, clinical outcomes data on providers that might have been difficult or impossible for consumers to access is now becoming available on websites that are like the Washington hospital HAI data. A recent Dark Daily titled “Pathologists Are Included in the Updated CMS ‘Physician Compare’ Website” highlighted a Web browser-accessible provider database that was updated and enriched by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This database included pathologists. Collectively, these efforts demonstrate the progress in provider transparency designed to help patients make more informed choices about their healthcare providers.

—Michael McBride

Related Information:

Washington State Hospital Association Quality Indicators Search Page

HB 2828 – 2009-10: Requiring hospitals to report certain health care data

Hospital-Specific Infection Rates Made Public: New Website a Tool for Consumers and Hospitals

Healthcare-associated Infections: Recovery Act