After years of breaking down, my sedan recently died. Finding myself in the market for a new car, I did what most Americans would do – went to the web. Reading reviews and checking rankings, it quickly became clear that each website emphasized something different: Some valued fuel-efficiency and reliability, while others made safety the primary concern. Others clearly put a premium on style and performance. It was enough to make my head spin, until I stopped to consider: What really mattered to me? I decided that safety and reliability were my primary concerns and how fun a car was to drive was an important, if somewhat distant, third consideration.
For years, many of us have complained about the lack of similarly accessible, reliable information about healthcare. These issues are particularly salient when we consider hospital care. Despite a long-standing belief that all hospitals are the same, the truth is startlingly different: where you go has a profound impact on whether you live or die, whether you are harmed or not. There is an urgent need for better information, especially as consumers spend more money out of pocket on healthcare. Until recently, this type of transparent, consumer-focused information simply didn’t exist.
Over the past couple of months, things have begun to change. Three major organizations recently released groundbreaking hospital rankings. The Leapfrog Group, a well-respected organization focused on promoting safer hospital care, assigned hospitals grades (“A” through “F”) based on how well it cared for patients without harming them*.