Healthcare might be getting better – depends how you measure it…

I used Tableau Public to compare the performance of acute care hospitals using the JCAHO core measures.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid publishes performance data periodically.  Essentially, the core measures show how frequently hospitals perform certain basic care functions – such as heart attack patients given aspirin on arrival at hospital, or surgery patients being given the right type of antibiotics at the right time.

My visualization shows 2012 performance compared to 2010 (you can switch between the two data sets using the tabs at the top left).  The size of each box shows the number of procedures, the bluer the box the better providers are at complying with the guidelines. The data is there to go down to the individual provider level, but I have not taken it that far yet.  So, on the face of it, hospitals are improving care quality because the 2012 treemap is bluer than the 2010 treemap.

That’s great – but not the whole story.  Arguably, the biggest challenge for care quality right now is managing the transitions between care providers and settings.  For example, the IHI estimates that 50% of medication errors occur because of poor communication during transitions.  Technology can help with that – but for now, we’ll take the improvement in core measures….