Hospital shopper strikes a chord

A federal Web site that gives consumers information about the quality of care at nearly 4,200 hospitals nationwide is proving to be a hit, said a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

In its first month of operation, Hospital Compare (www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov) had 6.4 million page views, which is in line with expectations, the spokeswoman said. CMS has no data about the exact number of visitors because the site does not use cookies to track users' actions, the spokeswoman said.

With the Hospital Compare Web site, users can find the hospitals in their area by county or ZIP code, and then view graphs showing the percentage of patients who received specific treatments at those facilities. For example, the site shows what percentage of heart failure patients were treated with an Angiotensin-converting Enzyme Inhibitor at each hospital during a six-month period. It also explains why administration of the inhibitor is desirable.

Certain users of the Internet Explorer Web browser have had trouble viewing the bar graphs on the Hospital Compare site because of incompatibilities with their browser configurations, CMS officials said. They have provided users with information about how to adjust their settings to view the graphs.

The site displays hospitals’ reports based on how they provided care in accordance with national standards for three conditions: heart attacks, heart failures and pneumonia.

CMS officials, who developed the site in cooperation with the Hospital Quality Alliance, said they plan to enhance Hospital Compare over time.

People who lack Internet access can get the information by calling (800)-MEDICARE.

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