By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Information about how Northern Montana Hospital provides care for three medical conditions will soon be available to the public.
The idea is to allow consumers and medical professionals to see how well hospitals follow accepted procedures and how they compare with other hospitals, said Charity Watt Levis of the Mountain-Pacific Quality Health Foundation.
"Hospitals can see what they are doing and what they need to improve on," she added.
The federal government will make the information available next year either over the Internet or over a toll-free phone line. It will detail the hospital's treatment of heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.
The requirement is part of the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003. Watt Levis said those medical problems were selected because people who are treated for them are often on Medicare or Medicaid.
Only hospitals designated "prospective payment hospitals" by Medicare are required to provide the information to the federal government. Those hospitals are paid a set rate for health problems treated, rather than paid on an actual cost basis, Watt Levis said.
All 22 Montana hospitals, including Northern Montana Hospital, that are required to provide the information are doing so, she said.
Lori Henderson, quality improvement manager at Northern Montana Health CareHenderson said she doesn't know precisely how much Northern Montana Hospital received in Medicare payments last year.
"The majority of our payments come from Medicare. We're a community with an aging population," she said.
The data will identify what percentage of a random sampling of patients treated for one of the three conditions was provided what's considered to be appropriate treatment for the condition. For instance, five different procedures will be listed for heart attack patients.
Northern Montana Hospital is required to provide information about a random sampling of 20 percent of its patients treated for each condition.
Data about care provided by long-term care facilities and home health care providers, including Northern Montana Care Center and Northern Montana Home Health Care in Havre, are already available at the Medicare Web site.
The Long Term Care Compare section shows the percentage of patients who improve, stay the same or get worse in certain activities, such as getting in and out of bed and getting dressed, and what percentage had to go to the hospital or needed emergency medical treatment. It shows how the selected facilities compare to the state and national averages.
The Nursing Home Compare section lists information including the total number of beds available and the type of ownership of the nursing home, improvement and worsening of conditions of patients at the nursing home, and the number of violations of standards when the nursing home was inspected. The deficiencies are rated on a scale of 1 to 4 for potential of harm, with 4 being the highest level.
The information includes state and national averages.
The site said that when Northern Montana Care Center was inspected in September 2003, two violations were found, compared to an average of five in Montana and an average of seven in the United States.
Both violations, one dealing with patient assessment and the other with safe storage, cooking and distribution of food, were given a potential harm rating of "2." The violations were corrected in December 2003, the site said.
On the Net: Medicare: www.medicare.gov