For decades, heart disease has been the No. 1 killer of Americans. That's why federal officials spent years developing a system to help patients compare cardiac death rates at individual hospitals.
But the information released last month on the government's Hospital Compare Web site lacked one important thing: specifics. Out of 4,477 hospitals surveyed in the U.S., all but 24 were listed as average on heart attack mortality79 of 80 hospitals surveyed in Virginia fell into that group.
The actual mortality rates for individual hospitals were not reported. Critics called the information useless.
But other sources of data can help consumers compare the effectiveness of hospitals' cardiac care. The not-for-profit Virginia Health Information organization, which collects and analyzes data on hospitals in the state, recently began offering an easier-to-use online comparison tool.
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