Be careful in using new information about Canadian hospitals
Be careful in using new information about Canadian hospitals

Thousands of Canadians every day trust their health and in some cases their lives to this countrys hospitals These patients and their families deserve as much information as possible about the care they are likely to receive and the challenges they may encounter Such transparency is the essence of an open and accountable healthcare system but Canada has regrettably lagged behind other nations in supplying it

Not anymore The Canadian Institute for Health Information has created a Webbased interactive tool providing open access to four years worth of information on 21 key clinical indicators at more than 600 hospitals across the country The public can look up a hospital and see a wealth of performance measures including its readmission and mortality rates and a variety of financial indicators Its considered the worlds most advanced online tool examining hospitals

But like any powerful tool it needs to be handled with care Results between centers can vary widely For example in large community hospitals the death rate within five days of a major surgery can run from 22 per 1000 cases to 165 per 1000 an eightfold difference But that doesnt mean care at one hospital is eight times better than at another

Indeed institute officials insist their data is not meant to be used for ranking or rating hospitals Rather its supposed to serve as a starting point for patients and their families to ask their doctor or other expert meaningful questions about their care

Its a basis for informed conversation says Crystal Mohr the institutes media cocoordinator The more you know the more questions you can ask in an informed manner

Health care in general and hospitals in particular are enormously complicated Making a treatment decision based solely on this interactive tool would be as illadvised as taking medicine based only on a Google search result

The temptation to compare hospitals and identify winners and losers is admittedly hard to resist But these measures are best interpreted with more than just a pinch of salt A great many factors feed into healthcare outcomes not just what happens within a hospitals walls

For example poverty is a wellestablished factor undercutting peoples ability to thrive and a hospital serving a large lowincome community will likely see that unfortunate reality reflected in its results Yet the institutes database does not take socioeconomic status into account Hospitals in different parts of the country might report certain outcomes in different ways and low volumes for some procedures can distort the significance of some numbers

This is why as far as the public is concerned the institutes informationpacked new interactive tool is best used as a first step in learning more rather than as a final judgment

The tool is likely to be most helpful to hospital administrators since it presents a useful way to draw attention to best practices in centers across the country

Thats the power of openness and informationsharing For too long Canadas hospitals operated behind a wall of silence keeping even basic data hidden from outside eyes Patients are now far better off as long as they remember that correctly interpreting information is just as important as open access to it

Date : 06 Apr, 2012
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