Contact:

Bill Steverson, BlueCross, (423) 535-3039

Beth Atwood, THA, (615) 256-8240

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Making health care decisions for you and your family can be complicated and confusing. But now that choice has been made easier with the introduction of consumer hospital quality reporting, jointly developed by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and the Tennessee Hospital Association (THA).

Beginning this month, consumers in need of medical care can go online and research quality data on 60 of the most common and frequent procedures and conditions for inpatient services. The comparative data are posted on the BlueCross Web site at www.bcbst.com. To access the quality reports, consumers can click on the “consumer health tools“ link under the health resources section on the homepage.

“Whether you’re purchasing a car or a home or seeking health care, knowledge is key in making a good decision. Without the necessary information, we’re all operating in the dark,” said Dr. Steve Coulter, president of government business and emerging markets for BlueCross. “The hospital quality comparison tool helps shed light on the information Tennesseans need to better understand and control their health care.”

“The collaboration between BlueCross and THA represents the commitment of our organizations to make the health care system more transparent,” said Craig A. Becker, president of THA. “The resulting effort shows the dedication of THA member hospitals to provide both high quality health care to consumers and the information they need to make health care purchasing decisions based on that quality.”

According to Coulter, the magnitude of the commitment of THA and its member hospitals to the consumer quality reports is virtually unmatched by the hospital industry in any other state.

Similar to the color-coded rating system of Consumer Reports magazine, the hospital reports use colored circles to indicate quality levels: worse than average (black circle), average (white circle) or better than average (red circle). The report measures length of stay, mortality and readmission rates for each procedure or condition, and complications for each procedure. Measurements can be viewed by individual procedure or by hospital. Searches can also be conducted by hospital size and/or region.

“We designed the reports to be easy to navigate and even easier to understand,” said Bill Cecil, director of health policy research for BlueCross. “Consumers can get a quick picture on the quality of a particular procedure or find more in-depth information.”

Individuals can drill down to see the supporting detail by clicking on the color-coded quality symbols for pop-up screens which provide numeric comparisons to national and state-wide performance.

According to Cecil, several features differentiate the Tennessee hospital quality report from other reports provided by organizations like The Leapfrog Group and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

First, the Tennessee report includes all hospital inpatient information, using data from Medicare, Medicaid, commercial and uninsured patients. The majority of hospital-specific quality reports rely on Medicare data, which may not apply to a privately insured, TennCare or aged population. Next, many government quality sites look at process and safety measures. The Tennessee report looks at actual outcomes. Finally, many quality tools require fees for specific data. The BlueCross quality Web site is completely free to the public. Both BlueCross members and non-members can access the data.

Besides benefiting the individual patient, the data is expected to drive improvements to the entire health care delivery system.

“Consumers will be able to use the same information to make health care purchasing decisions that hospitals are using to benchmark their own quality performance,” Cecil said. “These informed decisions will foster additional competitive focus on quality by hospitals that will look to improve their performance in order to maintain and attract customers.”

Coulter is careful to point out that although comparative, the data are not intended to rank hospitals, but instead are meant to help all Tennesseans make informed judgments about specific procedures.

“This is just one instrument in a series of tools that we offer or plan to provide to our members to help them become more consumer savvy when making health care decisions,” Coulter said.

The reports contain THA data, which are about two years more current than any other available quality data source. Data will be updated every six months.

Future expansions to the reports are expected to include the addition of procedures and conditions like oncology, as well as measurements for outpatient services.

Individuals with questions regarding individual hospital data should contact the specific hospital for information.

About THA

THA, established in 1938 as a not-for-profit membership association, serves as an advocate for hospitals, health systems and other healthcare organizations and the patients they serve. It also provides education and information for its members, and informs the public about hospitals and healthcare issues at the state and national levels.

THA is the premiere organization in Tennessee that promotes and represents the interests of all health careers, hospitals and health systems.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.