Students have report cards, Consumer Reports rates new cars, and employees, like it or not, get regular performance reviews. But if you’re looking for a new doctor and health plan, or a hospital that offers quality care, where do you go? Are there any “report cards” for health care?
The answer is yes. To start with, you need to know how doctors, medical specialists, hospitals, and health plans are overseen and rated because these ratings are the key to checking up on the quality and performance record of your health care provider.
Perhaps the best place to start is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which is responsible for researching the quality of care. The agency publishes an in-depth guide for patients and families called “Improving Health Care Quality“.
Ratings of health care quality are available from both public and private groups that are developing ways to check up on and improve the quality of doctors, hospitals, health plans, and other types of health care providers. Of course, a few cautions are in order.
Len Nichols of the New America Foundations health policy program says factors such as discomfort during recovery may be equally or more important to patients than those more likely to be covered in quality control surveys. Officials at the National Health Policy Forum also believe that various kinds of rating systems need to be linked together to be effective.
The two most common types of quality measures are