Bush administration launches campaign for hospital-rating website

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Bush administration encourages patients to check out how their local hospital compares. Source: CBS News  

The administration of President George W. Bush, touting its online effort to rate healthcare providers, launched a $1.9 million advertising campaign on Wednesday, encouraging patients to check a government website, Hospital Compare, before choosing a hospital.

The ad campaign in 58 regional newspapers lists hospitals and their scores on two of more than 30 measures available on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ website, USA Today reported. For example, the site indicates the percentage of patients who received antibiotics before surgery to prevent infection and whether patients “always” got help when they asked for it.

The government's campaign promoting the website comes amid efforts by states and the private sector to rate medical providers, according to USA Today. The movement is fueled by demands from employers and consumer groups, including AARP and the Consumers Union, for more information about cost and quality.

Consumer groups, employers and the health insurance industry have been advocating for the release of the Medicare database, but the ruling is opposed by organizations representing doctors. With information on more than 40 million patients and 700,000 doctors, the Medicare claims database holds the most healthcare data in the United States.

In April, the Consumer-Purchaser Disclosure Project, a coalition of groups representing consumers, employers and unions, agreed to develop a national set of standards to measure doctor performance, USA Today reported.

The government’s Hospital Compare website, which was launched in 2005 and expanded in March, has information on how well hospitals follow recommended care for heart attacks, pneumonia and surgery, and how satisfied patients are with their treatment, according to USA Today.

On the site, patients can also enter ZIP codes or names of hospitals to compare up to three hospitals at a time. The site does not list hospital infection rates, although such information may be included at some point, said Kerry Weems, CMS acting administrator.