Government Puts Hospital Death Rates Online

    August 21, 2008

For the first time the federal government has released an online searchable database of hospital death rates at more than 4,300 hospitals across the U.S.

Death rates for patients with pneumonia, heart attacks and heart failure are now posted on Medicare’s Web site, Hospital Compare.

Hospital Compare

"Reporting quality data on the care provided hospital patients is a key to our continuing effort to provide better, value-based health care for all Americans," HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said.  "Expanding the scope of measures is making Hospital Compare a more valuable tool for all health care consumers."

New additions to the site include pneumonia scores that track the number of Medicare patients with pneumonia who died within 30 days of being hospitalized. The national 30-day pneumonia death rate was 11.4 percent.

Medicare says the purpose of adding mortality rates to its Hospital Compare site is to provide usable and accurate information about hospital performance to consumers.

"With these new enhancements, consumers and health care providers will be able to look at individual hospital mortality scores.  We hope that this new information will cement the Web site’s role as a key driver in improving the quality and reliability of care in the nation’s hospitals, said Kerry Weems, Centers for Medicare Services acting administrator.

Medicare says consumers should not use the information on Hospital Compare as a tool to "shop" for a hospital. They say the information on the site should be used, as an additional tool to make health care decisions and that people should gather information from multiple sources when selecting a hospital.