A test for hospitalsPeople whose family members have been diagnosed with a severe illness probably experience fear and helplessness when deciding which hospital to use. Life or death, at least the quality of life, depends on whether a patient is treated by a skilled doctor, at a reliable hospital.
Patients are in desperate need of accurate and useful information about the quality of hospitals. Responses from readers of recent JoongAng Ilbo articles about hospital evaluations have shown that patients watch this issue with keen interest. The articles reported the Health Insurance Review Agency’s analysis of the number of cancer surgeries conducted in 2006. The surgeries were limited to the six most frequently diagnosed cancers among Koreans, including lung cancer and liver cancer. After these articles were published readers requested even more information.
We cannot say that there have been no evaluations of hospitals. The Health Ministry has been releasing evaluations for several years. But they were not sufficient.
The data were limited to the number of medical staff or equipment and did not evaluate the quality of medical services. And the evaluation was vague, using broad grades, because the ministry had to appease the hospitals, which did not want the evaluations publicized. Because the grades used for the evaluations were meaningless, they were criticized.
Reliable evaluation of hospitals is necessary for both patients and doctors. The JoongAng Ilbo’s articles, for instance, showed how a small hospital with strong expertise, located outside the capital, strengthened its competitiveness and helped patients. It is a model for other hospitals.
We should stop superficial evaluations. The quality of medical service should be rated so that patients can clearly see which hospitals are doing a good job. The results should be announced in a form that patients can easily access and understand.
It is also necessary to introduce evaluations because they will enhance the overall quality of medical services by intensifying competition among hospitals.
The key to the success of a hospital evaluation relies on the standards used to evaluate the quality of medical services and how to judge the difference. What is more important is that the administration should no longer try to appease hospitals at the expense of patients.
We urge the Health and Welfare Ministry to implement effective hospital evaluations.