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Public Demand Fuels Patient Safety and Quality Information by James Roosevelt, Jr.

Earlier this week, I participated in a panel discussion that talked about the results of a survey on how consumers make health care decisions. It was an interesting discussion on how we can have more transparency in health care and which health care information individuals may find useful.

We – meaning those of us who work and have worked for many years in health care – tend to develop terms to represent a new movement or idea. In this case, transparency is the concept of sharing information on the performance of hospitals and doctors. Transparency is the answer to the questions of exactly how well the hospitals and doctors that care for us – often at some of our most vulnerable moments – perform their work.

The survey results had some interesting findings:

Individuals spend more time researching the purchase of their next car than they do choosing a doctor or hospital
They place a great deal of trust in their insurance plan to provide them information on doctors and hospitals
Infection rates in hospitals is one of the data points individuals want to know about a hospital

I was pleasantly surprised to hear that insurance plans are a trusted source of information. This very strong finding in Massachusetts appears to differ from national data and is another example of why we can be leaders on patient safety and transparency as we are on health care financing. I also get that we are more inclined to research our car purchase. But that needs to change.

Health care reform called for a council to study and publish information on health care cost and quality. That group has started to meet and has an ambitious goal. It is important that the group be adequately funded in the legislature’s budget process. I hope the council develops standard measures for health care quality. They can only be successful in doing so if they have the resources to actively pursue this issue. There is already a great deal of published health care quality information but each measurement tool has its own way of measuring and reporting. If the panel is able to establish common standards, they can change the way the public uses and understands quality information. We should be able to find out as much about our doctors as we can about the flex fuel capabilities of a Chevrolet and the safety of a Volvo (not to mention why ethanol is not available to put in those cars).

All of us need to do some more work to make this massive change in public policy understandable. This blog demonstrates the great change and overwhelming amount of information that comes with health care reform.

So, I would like to do my part to share some clear information:

1. In designing our plans for the Connector, Tufts Health Plan deliberately determined that these plans would not generate profit but rather would cover our costs. We also decided that the plans should have unlimited office visits that are not part of the deductible. We believe that this philosophy supports the spirit of increased access to health care coverage.

2. If you have not already done so, look up your doctor and hospital. The Massachusetts Health Quality Partnership has been a trailblazer in this arena. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health also has an important role to play and is already doing so in the cardiac area.

James Roosevelt, Jr. is the President and CEO of Tufts Health Plan

This program aired on April 6, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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