Patients can rarely find this information before getting elective surgery, or when deciding to commit to a given institution for a long-term course of treatment.
The problem is that right now there are few short-term incentives for hospitals to be transparent to the public. Patients are used to finding care based on proximity, word-of-mouth, and referrals from trusted physicians. (None of these are bad methods, by the way.)
Meanwhile insurers and public programs rarely pay for better outcomes, so they do not build networks that steer patients to quality. Paternalism pervades the entire system, where insurers and providers alike do not trust patients to shop for the best care.
Thus it is only the most long-term focused institutions that decide to become radically transparent. And there’s one that stands out above the rest: Cleveland Clinic.
The Ohio institution is already known for excellent care, especially in cardiology, for being a “well-oiled machine”, and for being an economic bright spot in the otherwise dreary environs of Cuyahoga County. (Sorry, as Pittsburgher it’s hard for me to say nice things about the Mistake By The Lake.)
But something else Cleveland Clinic should be known for is its public outcomes reporting. Every year since at least 2005 Cleveland Clinic has published Outcomes Books on its Web site. For each clinical category it releases data on mortality, complication rates, and patient satisfaction. It also mails paper copies of these books to specialists around the country as a kind of transparency-marketing. No other hospital system comes close to reporting this level of detail about the quality of its care.