A Commonwealth Fund�supported study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that "good hospitals" are difficult to identify, according to the Fund.
According to the nationwide study, quality tends to vary from region to region. The Northeast and Midwest tended to outperform the South and West. Hospitals that provide high quality service in one type of care may not do so in others.
In the study, "Care in U.S. Hospitals�The Hospital Quality Alliance Program," researchers based at the Harvard School of Public Health and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital examined 10 measures that reflect quality of care for three major clinical conditions: acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure, and pneumonia.
"These data do not provide support for the notion that 'good' hospitals are easy to identify or consistent in their performance across conditions," the authors conclude.
Comment: Many health care reform proposals now under consideration would have patients shop for the best health care. This study, if correct, suggests that such shopping would be difficult and problematical.