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Hospital Performance Report Released by DHSS

AARP New Jersey commends the Department of Health and Senior Services for both expediting the release of the 2009 New Jersey Hospital Performance Report and producing a useful, consumer-friendly report. Prior to 2009, this annual report released only hospital process measures which focus on the steps in a process of care, rather than outcomes of the care given. For the first time, and as a direct result of the Health Error Accountability Law (HEAL) signed by Governor Corzine on August 31st at AARP’s state office, the report includes actual hospital outcomes that indicate how well individual hospitals are taking care of patients in the Garden State.

“This report brings meaningful, health care transparency directly to New Jersey residents for the very first time,” said Patricia Kelmar, AARP Associate State Director. “It empowers health care consumers in a way that was not achievable before the HEAL bill was signed into law just six weeks ago. The Department has done an excellent job in releasing this patient safety data so quickly and in such a consumer-friendly format.”

The report contains data on 12 patient safety indicators including post operative sepsis (a serious bloodstream infection), post operative blood clots and excessive bleeding, and post operative hip fractures (resulting from falls). Health Commissioner Heather Howard has indicated that certain of these indicators should be at zero including foreign objects left in the body after surgery and wrong blood transfusions. For example, there were 63 incidents statewide of a foreign object left in the body after surgery. The expected rate of occurrence for this incident is zero.

DHSS noted that the best way to interpret these rates is by looking at the rates for all 12 indicators. The Department urges consumers to examine all the indicators for a particular hospital to gain a clearer understanding of hospital performance. Further, evaluating the differences between hospitals, as the indicators measure the “differences in hospital performance,” is important.

AARP worked for more than two years to get this hospital specific outcome information into the hands of the public. AARP noted that the New Jersey data of Patient Safety Indicators (PSIs) compare hospital by hospital rates within the state but also against national averages.

While applauding the release and accessibility of the report, AARP raised concerns about what the report indicates. “The report shows that much more can be done to ensure patient safety in New Jersey hospitals,” said Kelmar. “Disconcerting numbers of preventable medical errors are occurring in our health facilities. Now consumers will know these results. Equally important, every hospital can see their own levels of mistakes compared to others, which we hope will encourage them to make the changes necessary to improve patient safety throughout the state.”

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