Hospital quality and journalism quality

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—A public-private effort called the Hospital Quality Alliance on Friday launched with great fanfare a Web site for consumers to compare information on quality of care for specific measures at 4,200 hospitals nationwide.

The site, called Hospital Compare, is online at or So far, it tracks 17 quality measures for acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Others are planned.

“We want to begin to develop other measures,” said American Hospital Association President Dick Davidson. “This is just the beginning.”

It’s a terrific idea, but it remains to be seen whether consumers flock to this site, given that American consumers tend to pick their doctors and hospitals on whether the provider is part of their health plan and whether it’s less than 30 minutes from home.

Davidson, along with CMS honcho Mark McClellan, M.D. (since Medicare now pays a 0.4 percent bonus to hospitals that report quality data) and AFL-CIO chief lobbyist Gerry Shea, unveiled the site at the Association of Health Care Journalists‘ annual conference here. Or so we thought.

Turns out, CMS had leaked the story to the Wall Street Journal a day earlier. As the noontime press conference got underway, I got my daily e-mail from iHealthBeat detailing the Journal story, which kind of spoiled the suspense for me.

The Journal, by the way, reported that Hospital Compare launched on Thursday. Wrong.