SHREVEPORT – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal and Louisiana Department of Health (DHH) Secretary Alan Levine launched http://www.healthfinderla.gov/, which will give residents across the state easy access to detailed, accurate information on the cost, quality and performance of health care facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes, as well as health plans and prescription drugs. The Governor and Secretary were joined by State Senator Willie Mount, and other state and health care officials at Willis-Knighton Medical Center in Shreveport.

With HealthFinderLA.gov, consumers – including children - will be able to access educational materials on living healthier lives, find the usual and customary charges for the Top 100 most commonly prescribed medications, and access information comparing various quality and patient safety measures in Louisiana hospitals, nursing homes and health plans.  The site will provide key performance data on health care facilities and health plans, including death rates, readmission rates, dozens of nationally accepted quality and performance measures for health plans, and complication rates for procedures.

Governor Jindal said, “Transparency in our healthcare system is a critical component to improving accountability and outcomes. Louisiana is now one of only four states to have brought together data on hospitals, nursing homes, health plans and pharmacy pricing onto one, easy-to-use website to help consumers get the information they need.

“Louisiana Health Finder will help health care providers drive improvement in our system of care. Transparent reporting of services helps improve care, and again, the winner in all of this is the Louisiana patient.   Making cost, quality and performance data about our health care system more transparent is not only the right thing to do for our people, but it is an essential part of strengthening our health care services.

Secretary Levine said, “While this information will be good for consumers, it will also be a great tool to help providers of care align themselves toward improvement in outcomes. I am grateful for the first step taken by the Louisiana Hospital Association, and for the support of the provider community as we have implemented this initiative.  There is nothing more important to consumer rights than the right to know about the level of care they are being provided.”

Senator Mount said, “This website demonstrates our state’s determination to be open and accountable for the care that is delivered. I was proud to author the legislation that called for our state to take this leap forward, and want to thank everyone who took a step in getting us to this point. The Louisiana Health Finder will become a valuable resource of information for our citizens, stakeholders and policy makers.”

President and CEO of the Louisiana Hospital Association John Matessino said, “There is a growing national interest for all healthcare organizations to be publicly accountable for the care they provide. In 2006, the hospital field in Louisiana began making hospital pricing and quality information available to the public online, and we support the state’s effort to expand the amount of information that is available to people in our state so they can make informed healthcare decisions.”

CEO of the Louisiana Association of Health Plans Gil Dupré said, “The Louisiana Association of Health Plans is pleased to be a partner with LDH in making information available to the health care consumers. We believe that comprehensive health care is best provided by networks of health care professionals who are willing to be held accountable for the quality of their services and the satisfaction of their patients.”

Ricky Guidry, Chairman of the Louisiana Independent Pharmacies Association said, "HealthFinderLa.gov is a good step forward in providing patients and their families with more information for their health care decision-making. It's one other way pharmacists work with their patients to better manage their health. Patients should look to their pharmacists for health care services like medication therapy management and partnering with their physicians and other health care providers in creating and providing a medical home."

Chairman of Blueprint Louisiana's Board of Trustees Bill Fenstermaker said, "Blueprint Louisiana fully supports the Department of Health and Hospitals' initiative to enhance health care accountability through quality and cost transparency. One essential element to improving care is providing Louisiana citizens information they need to make informed health care decisions."

Executive Director of The Louisiana Nursing Home Association Joe Donchess said, “We support the Department’s effort to help patients and their loved ones make the most-informed health care decisions. HealthFinderLa.gov will be a step forward in Louisiana to providing our citizens with the information they need to get the quality care they deserve.”

Louisiana Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon said, “Healthfinderla.gov is a powerful tool for the citizens of Louisiana.  With the launch of this site, consumers will be better equipped to indentify quality health care and health plans throughout the state.  I believe the people of Louisiana will benefit from this new avenue to research their needed health services.”

Representative Jane Smith said, "I applaud the Governor, Senator Mount, and the folks at Health and Hospitals for giving our citizens the power to review and decide which healthcare services are best for them and their families. There's a lot of information out there coming from all sorts of different directions, but this website will shed light on the vast majority of providers and provide a central location where Louisianians can go to get informed."

Sen. Sherri Cheek said, “The consumers’ role in managing their own healthcare is changing.  HealthFinderLA.gov is a tool that was created to meet the growing demand for knowledge and transparency, so residents can access meaningful and relevant healthcare information.  The hospital industry in our state has been transparent for years, offering this information online.  Now everyone will have access to valuable healthcare information from other healthcare providers and health insurers, as well.”

Rep. Thomas Carmody said, “This website is an innovative tool for folks who justifiably feel overwhelmed by the whole process. By putting credible information at our fingertips – our citizens will be able to make smarter decisions on everything from how much they pay for medicines to whether they’re getting the best quality of care they deserve.” 

Louisiana Health Finder provides an increased level of transparency for Louisiana’s health care consumers, helping them ensure the best use of their health care dollars. The site contains data from 113 of the state’s 131 acute care/critical access hospitals, 285 of the 292 nursing homes in the state, nine private health plans, the state’s Medicaid program, and more than 1,000 pharmacies statewide.

A study published at the Tufts School of Medicine states that “the public reporting of readmission, complication, and health care associated infection rates offers the promise of simultaneously lowering costs while improving the outcomes of care.” Another study by the American Society of Integrative Medicine states that “greater transparency facilitates the transition to safer, more effective, more humane healthcare.  Consumers and business, administrators and practitioners can improve care at lower cost by increasing transparency.”

Data from Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts shows that if increased transparency regarding hospital readmissions and health care-associated infection rates led to a 10 to 20 percent decrease in these rates, $3 billion a year could be saved nationally. In a time of skyrocketing health care costs, transparency drives providers to improve the quality of care, which in turn leads to significant savings.

The Web site is a product of the Consumer’s Right to Know Act, created by Act 537 of the 2008 Regular Legislative Session, which was part of the Governor's legislative package and was authored by Senator Willie Mount. The Act authorizes LDH to collect a broad range of health care information and publish it on the Internet.

The site also provides access to the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, the federal government’shttp://www.healthfinder.gov/, and http://www.kidshealth.org/, which is visited by more than 500,000 people a day, making it the “most-visited site on the Web for information about health, behavior, and development from before birth through the teen years.”

To create the new site, LDH worked with a health data panel of technology experts, physicians, nursing homes, health plans, pharmacy and hospital administrators and consumer advocates, and federal representatives to bring together publicly available data. Data sources for the site include CMS Hospital Compare and Nursing Home Compare, the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set measures, and hospital inpatient discharge data.

LDH has also actively engaged providers across the state to make them aware of this reporting initiative. All hospitals, nursing homes, health plans and pharmacies were provided reports to review and identify any calculation errors in their data. LDH staff worked diligently with hospital administrators to explain and review hospital detail reports and results. The department’s priority is to assure the community that these results have been calculated correctly.

LDH also worked with the Louisiana Hospital Association and the Louisiana Association of Health Plans to conduct five webinars in December and January to introduce the content, methodology and long-term plan for Louisiana Health Finder to health care administrators and quality improvement directors.

Hospital Data
Two sources of data are used to compare hospital performance, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Hospital Compare and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Patient Safety Indicators. Data are also collected from the state’s hospital inpatient claims database for 2008 hospital discharges.

Hospital Compare is the result of efforts by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Hospital Quality Alliance, a public-private collaboration established to promote reporting on hospital quality of care. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality developed indicators which measure problems that patients can experience during health care that might be prevented through changes in the system or by the provider. Indicators range from preventable mortalities to postoperative blood clots to hospital-acquired blood infections.

The Web site contains data from 113 of the state’s 131 acute care/critical access hospitals.  These hospitals represent those facilities that report their quality measures to CMS. Consumers can find performance results for care related to heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, patient safety events and satisfaction scores. As the state works to add additional performance measures not associated with CMS data, information regarding the remaining 18 acute care/critical access hospitals will be added to the site.

Twelve hospitals performed better than the national top 10 percent in risk adjusted mortality and readmissions data. Readmissions data are based on how frequently patients return to a facility for the same health care condition within 30 days of their original discharge.

The Hospital data will be updated quarterly.

Nursing Home Data
Data reported to CMS on the quality of care provided by nursing homes will allow consumers to compare care in these facilities. CMS provides information on every Medicare – and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the United States, over 17,000 nationwide and 285 of the 292 nursing homes in Louisiana.

The data are collected through inspections and survey conducted by LDH as well as through clinical assessments performed for each patient at each facility. Consumers will find ratings for the overall care at each facility, quality provided, staffing adequacy, and health and fire inspections.

Nursing home data will be updated quarterly.

Health Plan Data
Seven major health plans that offer coverage in Louisiana report a total of nine health plan products such as HMOs, PPOs and POS. These partners together cover approximately 80 percent of the private and individual health plans in Louisiana. Medicaid is also included, which covers 25 percent of Louisiana’s population.

Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures are used to allow consumers to compare health care plans to one another, and to regional and national benchmarks. More than 90 percent of America's health care plans use HEDIS to measure performance on important dimensions of care and service.

Measures are developed by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), a health plan accrediting body. There are a total of 32 measures covering a broad range of topics, such as diabetes care, maternity care, medical care, women’s health, youth care and consumer satisfaction. The results are calculated from medical and pharmacy claims data, and consumer satisfaction surveys.

Health plan data will be updated annually.

Pharmacy Data
The Web site contains information gathered from 1,040 pharmacies across the state. Consumers can find large price ranges of medications, such as Nexium, used in the treatment of acid reflux, which can cost between $156 and $586. The cost calculations are what a consumer with no health insurance, drug discounts, or related discounts would pay out of pocket for a drug.

Pharmacy data are derived from reports made by pharmacies to the Louisiana Medicaid Pharmacy Benefits Management Program. The average medication cost will be refreshed every month, and LDH will review the top 100 medications in July 2010 in order to expand the list and provide consumers with new information.

Driving Health Care Improvement
One of the main goals for Louisiana Health Finder is to demonstrate changes in consumer and provider behavior as a result of public reporting.  Already, Louisiana Health Finder has begun to do this in health care facilities across the state. 

Studies have shown that organizations committed to providing the highest quality care use dashboards and report cards to constantly monitor their performance. LDH has already received feedback from many providers that they are adding the performance measures found on Louisiana Health Finders to their reports and improvement cycles. Furthermore, much of the feedback that LDH has received from hospitals involved the need to more accurately document patient’s chart, as well as improve how those charts are coded for billing. Improved coding will not only lead to more accurate billing, but it will also improve how hospitals performance is risk adjusted when compared to national and state benchmarks.

Future Enhancements
The initial launch of http://www.healthfinderla.gov/ is the first of many steps in providing meaningful information to the public. By late April, LDH expects to include quality reports for Home Health and Dialysis Facilities on the site, making Louisiana the first state in the country to bring all of these measures together in one, easy-to-use Web site. An interactive map of all providers in the state will be added as well, allowing users to search by types of service, distance to their home, and directions. By the end of the year, LDH, with consultation of the Health Data Panel, will work to include the cost of many treatments and procedures and an accurate statewide directory of practicing physicians.

In the future, the site will become an interactive information portal where consumers will be able to create their own scorecard based on the measures and metrics that matter most to them.  Additionally, researchers will be able to run custom, web-based reports to dive into a detailed analysis of the results displayed on these pages.

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