Sunday, June 1, 2008

Consumer Reports to rate hospitals

Consumers Union (Consumer Reports to you and me) will start a new hospital rating service (free WSJ Digg Link).

The nonprofit Consumers Union is launching a new hospital-ratings service, adding to the growing competition to provide online consumer information about health care.

The effort by the publisher of the popular Consumer Reports magazine is a gamble that the credibility of the magazine's name and its no-advertising stance, identified with widely used ratings for cars and other products, can translate into the tricky field of health care, where doctors and other providers have objected to some evaluations proposed by insurers. The field is increasingly crowded, with an array of players trying to build definitive consumer-health information sources.

Consumers Union already offers assessments of health-insurance plans, drugs and some medical treatments. Other areas the nonprofit is considering include physician groups and elder care. The new hospital ratings, which are expected to be supplemented with further information later, are the first step in a broader effort to expand the nonprofit's health-care offerings.

The article brings up objections to the rating methodology, but what methodology is perfect? I support efforts to bring more transparency to health care outcomes and costs. This transparency is especially necessary if people are going to start using HSAs and consumer driven plans.