The American Hospital Association is partnering with U.S. News & World Report, author of the annual "America's Best Hospitals" ranking, to offer an online directory of hospital information tailored to consumers.
Launched last week, the Directory of America's Hospitals provides information on more than 6,000 AHA member hospitals, ranging from specialized services and types of treatments to phone numbers and Web site addresses. The directory at usnews.com/hospitals includes more than 18,000 pages of information and will be free for visitors, who do not need to register to access the information.
The AHA views the partnership, which did not involve any money changing hands, as a way to promote its hospitals on an established Web site instead of creating one itself, said AHA spokesman Richard Wade. The venture is the first consumer-oriented alliance the hospital association has struck, but it may not be the last, he said.
With a growing demand by the general public for healthcare information, more consumer-oriented projects could be in the works for the AHA.
"We are looking for opportunities to put more information about hospitals into the public's hands," Wade said. "U.S. News seemed like a good way to start it. We would have had to spend a lot of money to make it known to people."
The AHA provides the information on the hospitals and supplies it to U.S. News, which is responsible for overseeing and maintaining the directory on its Web site. U.S. News, which already uses the AHA's data on hospitals to produce its annual hospital ranking, approached the association earlier this year with the proposal.
"We had been looking for a while for these data projects that give people crucial information," U.S. News spokesman Richard Folkers said. "We had been toying over this for some months."
U.S. News' annual hospital ranking, which included 203 hospitals in the 2003 edition, will be separate from the online directory and the AHA will not have any involvement with the ranking, which is based on 17 clinical specialties, Folkers said.
"On one hand, you are talking about presenting straight factual information in the directory and on the other hand our rankings are a combination of statistical information and assessments," he said.
Lewis Molnar, executive vice president of Shriners Hospitals for Children in Tampa, Fla., is a frequent critic of the hospital ranking because it has never included any of the 20 Shriners hospitals, but he said he does not see a conflict with the partnership. "Most of our patients come to us through physician referrals," he said. "I don't think patients who come to Shriners hospitals will be affected by this at all."
The AHA will track Web site visits to determine the directory's success, Wade said. "We want to see what the response is by the public," he said.