Web site to aid health decisions

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A coalition of health groups launched a Web site today aimed at helping the public make more informed health care choices.

The site -- www.phcqa.org -- includes information on quality measures related to heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia and health care-associated infections. The information is drawn from several sources, including Medicare, the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council, and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

It is the work of the Pennsylvania Health Care Quality Alliance, which primarily consists of groups representing doctors, hospitals and insurers.

"While hospital quality data has become more available on the Internet, consumers are at a disadvantage when they must search out multiple sites," said Gerald Miller, the alliance's chairman.

He said the group "has developed, and is continuing to refine, a consistent and uniform approach that makes it easier for consumers to access, understand and use the data."

The site is a work in progress, and officials are seeking input from consumers and health professionals about how to make it more useful, said Erik Muther, the group's executive director.

Some details that consumers might find confusing were apparent earlier this week on a preview of the site. For example, names of specific hospitals were included in some parts, but not others, in discussing bloodstream infections, coronary artery bypass graft mortality rates and readmission rates for heart failure complications.

Mr. Muther said patients should use the Web site data in consultation with advice from their physicians and others they trust.

Among other members, the alliance, formed in 2006, includes the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, the Hospital Council of Western Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Medical Society, Highmark, Blue Cross of Northeastern Pennsylvania, Capital BlueCross and Independence Blue Cross.

Joe Fahy can be reached at jfahy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1722.


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