1. Roush, Karen MSN, FNP, RN, clinical editor

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced a new resource to provide information to consumers on the quality of care provided at 4,200 (almost all) of the nation's hospitals. The database, Hospital Compare, can be accessed on the Internet at or by phone at (800) MEDICAR[E] (633-4227).


The resource emerged from the Hospital Quality Alliance, a collaboration of public and private hospitals, health care organizations, consumer groups, government agencies, and quality experts. The hospitals have voluntarily agreed to submit data on 17 standardized quality measures for three serious conditions: acute myocardial infarction (AMI), heart failure, and pneumonia (see Table 1, below). The Web site is consumer friendly and includes additional resources, including a hospital checklist and lists of contacts for health information- the American Heart Association and their state survey agency, for example.

Table 1 - Click to enlarge in new windowTable 1. Indicators Used to Measure Quality in Hospitals

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) has provided consumers and health care providers with quality-of-care information since July 2004 at, which provides data on accredited health care organizations, including assisted living facilities, home care providers, hospitals, laboratories, nursing homes, mental health and substance abuse recovery settings, outpatient care, and office-based surgical facilities. Information on this site includes


* JCAHO accreditation decisions.


* programs accredited by JCAHO and those accredited by other accrediting bodies.


* compliance with JCAHO National Patient Safety Goals and performance on National Quality Improvement Goals (hospitals only).


* special quality awards, including Magnet status.



Nurses can use these databases to identify areas that need improvement and as a tool to help inform patients and their families of the health care options. Patients should be encouraged to ask questions of clinicians and not base their choices solely on information from the databases. Both the CMS and JCAHO state that their databases will continue to evolve and provide more information as it becomes available. Patients can also go to to be directed to other existing comparative databases, such as Nursing Home Compare, Home Health Compare, Dialysis Facility Compare, and the Medicare Personal Plan Finder.