Which hospital in your area follows the best clinical practices? According to CDC estimates, about there are 1.7 million infections acquired in U.S. hospitals every year, and almost 100,000 of them result in death. These sobering statistics show the importance of checking up on hospital clinical practices before an operation. The Health and Human Services website, "Hospital Compare", lets you do just that.
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The site does not look like much, but the data and bar graphs it delivers are informative and well done.
To find data for each hospital, I recommend searching by zip code if you know it:
Click on "Zip Code" in the lower right of the page.
Enter your zip code and select a distance for your search. Click "next step".
Check the boxes beside the hospitals you wish to compare. Click "next step".
Click the links of categories to expand or collapse categories of clinical practice metrics.
Check the boxes beside the metrics you wish to compare.
Click "view graphs".
The data are great, but it leaves you wishing there were even more metrics available. The most obvious data that are missing are results-oriented statistics. What were the success rates of operations at each hospital? What were their rates of infections or other complications? This information should be disclosed to patients so they can make fully-informed decisions about their healthcare.
The Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths (RID) has a list of 15 steps to prevent hospital-acquired infection. The first tip is to ask your doctor to wash his or her hands! It is shocking that patients would need to ask surgeons to wash their hands, but clearly hand washing is an important step to prevent hospital-acquired infections. HHS also has a website called "Questions Are The Answer" that gives patients advice on questions to ask their healthcare providers. Considering the seriousness of hospital infection, RID’s list of questions to ask hospital staff before surgery may also warrant inclusion on the Questions Are The Answer site.
Overall, the data and graphs delivered by HHS’s Hospital Compare site are great, but the usability of the application would likely benefit from some small revisions. Bringing more of the content and input boxes above the fold would be easy to do and would improve user performance. The logos, tabs, and verbiage need not take so much vertical space above the content. In addition, the homepage should visually emphasize where to begin the process of comparing hospitals, because it is not immediately clear where to start. A bold, though overbearing, example of visually emphasizing where to start is the "create your blog" button on Blogger's homepage. Showing screenshots of example graphs on the application homepage may also be a good idea to interest newcomers in going through the multi-step process.