The state launched an online tool Wednesday intended to help consumers, businesses and health care providers navigate the state’s vast system of hospitals and providers.
Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz, who joined employees from the Connecticut Office of Health Strategy at the launch announcement, likened the free tool to Consumer Reports because it will allow users to compare the quality and cost of medical care at 19 of the state’s health care organizations.
The website has two key elements: a quality scorecard, that is operational now, and a cost estimator that is set to be released in late September.
“Getting the best value possible for health care is critical to the bottom line for every business and family in Connecticut,” Bysiewicz said. “It’s important that everyone understand how health care providers score on quality and cost of services they provide, and this new user-friendly, online tool will make that possible.”
Vicki Veltri, OHS Executive Director, said the website, called Healthscore CT, will lend “transparency to two priorities in healthcare – quality and cost,” while also helping organizations measure their own quality improvement projects.
The quality scorecard rates health care organizations through a five-star system on more than 30 health measures outlined by an advisory council composed of consumer advocates, providers, community organizations, state agencies, and payers. The range of measures focus on the quality of care provided by primary care providers and span more than 10 areas, including behavioral health, children’s health, women’s health, chronic conditions, and preventative health.
Health care organizations are also evaluated on patient experience in four categories: office staff, provider communication, timely care, and an overall patient experience rating.
“Health care isn’t just about tests. It’s about what makes people better and more productive in their lives, what improves outcomes, what reduces health disparities, and what makes our communities healthier,” Veltri said. “We are all health care consumers at one point or another in our lives. Healthscore CT gives people the resources to make better health care decisions and gives providers an opportunity to improve the cost and quality of the care they deliver.”
Users can access interactive tables and graphs to compare provider networks, like Hartford HealthCare and Western Connecticut Health Network, to each other and the state average for any given health measure, such as asthma or diabetes. In addition, users can compare the overall performance rating of provider networks against all networks across all quality measures.
For example, patients with diabetes can see how provider networks rate in providing necessary testing such as A1-C blood tests, while patients looking for timely care can filter provider networks based on their five-star ratings.
OHS Director of Healthcare Innovation Mark Schaefer said Connecticut is one of the first states to create a rating system that evaluates the performance of provider networks rather than individual providers.
“With trusted data, everyone can make more informed choices when it comes to health care,” Schaefer said. “Individuals making treatment decisions, businesses choosing provider networks, health care organizations searching for ways to improve care, and payers working to implement reforms throughout the health care system can all benefit from Healthscore CT.”
The quality scorecard, which was funded through a $45 million federal grant from the Center for Medicine and Medicaid Innovation, employs national standard measures and compiles information from approximately 465,000 patients.
The cost estimator component, scheduled to launch at the end of September, will allow consumers to compare the cost of routine procedures such as colonoscopies, or more specialized procedures such as hip-replacements, across provider networks. The estimator tool utilizes data from the All-Payer Claims Database which collects health care information “relating to safety, quality, cost-effectiveness, and access for all levels of healthcare.”
Veltri said the cost differential between provider networks is not only informative but imperative.
“For example, an MRI at provider X is $590 and at provider Y it is over $1,000—same diagnostic test, significant cost difference,” Veltri said. “High cost does not necessarily mean good quality, and this website helps consumers sort that out. This information is a good starting point for conversations with your health care provider, and this site will continue to evolve to serve consumers.”