Government Puts U.S. Hospitals' Heart Death Rates Online

Government Puts U.S. Hospitals' Heart Death Rates Online

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took the death-rate data of the thousands of U.S. hospitals regarding hearth attacks and heart failure and posted it on their website today as part of an ongoing effort to give Americans information about which U.S. hospitals provide the best healthcare.

Mortality after Heart Failure or Heart Attack

The new information tracks 30-day mortality after heart failure or heart attack, with adjustments for patients' age, health and other factors, making it possible to compare the cardiac-care performance of 4,500 different acute-care hospitals. Each hospital receives a rating as being above, below, or in line with the national average.

Regarding the heart failure mortality data, 35 hospitals scored a below-average rating, and only 38 hospitals scored an above-average rating.

Rudimentary Data

The data are available at, but it's acknowledged that the data are not in a very user-friendly format. HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt noted, "We don't yet have the Formula One version. We have the go-cart version."

The new data are an addition to the HHS posts that contrast the prices of hospital procedures and consumers' experiences at the nation's hospitals. Those posts, which have been up for about a year, compare 31 elective procedures such as gallbladder removal, heart valve operations, and hernia operations. The site's pages with these data have had about 36 million page views.

Resistance from Hospitals

American hospitals' lack of transparency is not the norm among industrialized countries. The U.S. government has been trying for years to make more information about healthcare prices and services available to healthcare consumers, but has met with significant resistance from the healthcare industry. During the 1980s, government agencies tried releasing hospital quality data, but the hospitals revolted and the idea was scrapped.

The new push for transparency may work. One member of the consortium advocating for public viewing of healthcare data is the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor-and Congress of Industry Organization). Gerry Shea, the AFL-CIO's assistant to the president for government affairs, said of the new posts on the HHS website: "From the start, we tried to draw them into the reporting process without hospitals flipping out. We think this is the beginning of something that will be more aggressive."

(Source: Reuters)

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