Editor's Blog - How we work, how we make decisions, how we serve Canadians.

Jennifer McGuire

General Manager and Editor in Chief

An invitation to rate your hospital

Categories: Health

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When rating hospitals, CBC looked at indicators such as rate of patient deaths, number of readmissions and the rate of health-care related adverse events. (Claude Vickery/CBC)

There's nothing more important than one's health, and Canadians take great pride in our medical care system. But what is that pride based on? Do we really know how well that system is doing?

Not really. In Canada, it's been almost impossible for patients or their families to find objective information about our hospitals, the places most of us are born, and die, and where we deal with our most serious illnesses.

One of our most important responsibilities as Canada's public broadcaster is to deliver original journalism that provides a genuine public service. Our CBC News series Rate My Hospital is an excellent example of how we meet that responsibility, delivering original journalism on a topic that means a great deal to all Canadians.

There's been no way to know how well a given hospital delivers treatment, makes us better, keeps us safe and alive. Hospitals gather a huge amount of detailed patient data annually and report it to provincial health authorities.

But little of that data is available to the public, and what does get reported generally deals with budgets and efficiency rather than quality of care, safety or patient outcomes.

People in the U.K., the U.S. and other countries have been consulting online hospital report cards to help them make informed health care choices for more than a decade.

And now, thanks to the fifth estate and its groundbreaking "Rate My Hospital" website, so can Canadians.

This online resource developed by CBC's flagship investigative news program,the fifth estate, is designed to bring more transparency and accountability to our health care system and to arm Canadians with the information they need to inform themselves when preparing for a hospital stay.

A team from the fifth estate obtained a huge trove of data from the non-profit Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), data which had never before been broken down in this way. Our journalists, under the direction of an expert panel, spent months distilling and organizing that data into a user-friendly format.

Users of the Rate My Hospital website can look up individual hospital profiles and make their own assessments based on information such as how many patients died after major surgery or how often patients are forced to return to hospital after being sent home.

We have supplemented these ratings with other information that should be easily available but isn't always -- crucial data such as the incidence of the common hospital-acquired infections C. difficile and MRSA, emergency department wait times, nurse staffing levels and pain control.

CBC's Rate My Hospital is also the first website to give Canadians the opportunity to rate their local hospital on key measures such as respectfulness, cleanliness and communication, and compare its performance to that of other hospitals.

There's already been a great deal of reaction. Dr. Sholom Glouberman, of The Patient's Association of Canada, welcomed this initiative, while the Ontario Hospital Association took issue with both its methodology and its conclusions.

In the next post about this project we will include the details of how the project was designed and the international panel of medical professionals we brought together to help us conduct our research and build the website, and who provided expert advice from beginning to end.

Tags: Story Behind the Story

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