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According to an article posted by the Miami Herald we may now have more online information than we can properly use to measure the quality of hospital care in Florida.

Daunting data: Hospital flaws go public

Online comparisons of hospital quality are lifting the cloak of secrecy — but few consumers use them, finding them confusing.

Patients with severe strokes who go to Broward General are more likely to die than those who go to Aventura. A patient at Mercy is less likely to get an infection than one at Memorial West. Pneumonia patients at Baptist Hospital are more likely than those at Cedars to be given the most appropriate antibiotics.

All of those comparisons — and many more — are now available online, part of a movement to empower consumers by removing the traditional secrecy that has surrounded the performance of hospitals and doctors.

The hope is that bringing market transparency to healthcare will drive business to the providers that deliver the best care at the lowest price, reducing costs and improving outcomes.

The reality, at least for the moment, is murkier.

Hospital executives dispute the accuracy and meaning of the data, and few consumers are using the information. Even boosters of the transparency movement — who include government officials, insurance companies and business owners fighting spiraling healthcare costs — say that what’s now available is often confusing and perhaps useless.

Much healthcare information remains hidden, particularly about problem doctors, mistakes in hospitals and the industry’s bizarre pricing system. Still, a stunning array of information on hospitals is now available.

In many ways, Florida has been a leader in providing information through its website, floridacomparecare.gov, where anyone can search for information on mortality, complication rates, volume of procedures, price, readmission rates and average length of stay at every hospital in the state.

More information is available at hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, a site created by the federal government to track how closely hospitals adhere to a wide array of guidelines, such as giving patients the appropriate drugs at the appropriate times.

Amid all the discussions on what’s important and what’s not, many experts agree that one of the simplest measures may be the most useful — how often a procedure is done at a given hospital.

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