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Problems in Gaining Access to Hospital Information

Journal Articles

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Health Affairs, Vol. 10

Summer, 1991

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If a person were faced with a medical problem requiring a risky operation, it would be natural, even prudent, for that person to want to know the comparative experience with the procedure (as shown by annual volumes) and the relative success with which area hospitals perform the operation. Unfortunately, such information is often impossible for the average consumer or even the average employee benefits manager to obtain.

Various studies have shown that certain complicated procedures are volume-sensitive. That is, when hospitals perform higher volumes of the procedure, morality rates and charges decline. This relationship is said to reflect experience and economies of scale. While some argue that such quality and cost information can easily be misinterpreted, consumers deserve as much information as can be made available to help them determine where to obtain care. Unfortunately, hospitals believe that information regarding their quality and efficiency is proprietary and should not be released, and they have been quite successful at guarding hospital-specific information.

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