Apps That Steer You to Quality Care New tools for your mobile devices help you navigate the options and choose the highest-quality hospitals and clinics. App-titude
App-titude  |   November 01, 2014
Apps That Steer You to Quality Care
Author Notes
  • Janet McNichol is ASHA human resources director.
    Janet McNichol is ASHA human resources director.×
Article Information
Healthcare Settings / Telepractice & Computer-Based Approaches / App-titude
App-titude   |   November 01, 2014
Apps That Steer You to Quality Care
The ASHA Leader, November 2014, Vol. 19, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.19112014.32
The ASHA Leader, November 2014, Vol. 19, 32-33. doi:10.1044/leader.APP.19112014.32
You want to select and recommend the best medical care for yourself and your family, friends and clients, but how do you distinguish among the options? As consumers, we can access a plethora of data on quality, but most of it is difficult to sort through, even confusing.
Information on cost and reputation (like we see in “top docs” lists) are often the most readily available, but they have no relationship to quality or safety. Hospitals that are best-in-class in one award program may be rated poorly in another.
Luckily, a few tools stand out. They provide accurate, actionable information when you need it most.
But why is knowing where to seek care so critical? Preventable harm in hospitals is now the third-leading cause of death in the United States. One in three hospital admissions includes an adverse event—that’s harm to a patient as a result of receiving medical care—with more than a million Americans injured each year from preventable errors, according to the Institute of Medicine. In fact, 98,000 Americans die annually as a result of those medical errors.
Hospital options
There is a big difference in safety between the best and worst hospitals. At the best, 4.8 percent of patients having inpatient surgery will die of avoidable complications. At the worst, 16.7 percent of patients having inpatient surgery will die. That’s four times as many deaths at the worst hospitals than at the best. How can you ensure you and your loved ones wind up at the best hospitals? Check out these hospital-selection tools:
  • Hospital Safety Score from The Leapfrog Group, an employer-based coalition advocating for improved transparency, quality and safety in hospitals. This app makes it easy to compare hospitals: It assigns hospitals a letter grade—A through F—based on how safe they are in terms of infections, injuries, and medical and medication errors that can cause harm or death. Data come from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Leapfrog Hospital Survey (where applicable) and secondary sources. The app’s methodology is peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Patient Safety.

  • Carechex, another hospital comparison tool, provides a composite evaluation of medical quality based on process of care, outcomes of care and patient experience. Unfortunately, there is no app available, but it’s a good tool to use when you have computer access.

Hospitals, of course, are the most expensive place to seek medical care. You may have heard about a New Jersey hospital that charged a man $9,000 to bandage a cut finger. Obviously the billed amount is outrageous, but I also found myself wondering why the man sought care at an emergency room—especially a few days after the accident.
Nonhospital options
With the increase in number of urgent care centers and convenience care clinics popping up in neighborhood pharmacies and grocery stores, we have more options than ever for medical care. Making the right choice can ensure that you get the care you need without investing more time and money than necessary. In ballpark figures, you can expect the cost of a visit to vary across settings:
  • Convenience care clinic: $50–$75

  • Provider’s office: $65–$95

  • Urgent care center: $130–$180

  • Emergency room: $500–$1,200

Not sure where to go? iTriage can help. It includes a symptom checker that helps you to identify possible causes for a physical complaint and to locate care. The app was founded by two emergency room doctors, and the ER shows up as an option under “Where could I go?” for almost everything I entered.
However, it includes appropriate lower-cost options. I also like that iTriage is partnering with Choosing Wisely, a campaign designed to educate patients about tests and procedures. More than 50 medical societies have developed evidence-based recommendations that will help you make informed decisions, and iTriage is helping to make this information available.
I also have a low-tech recommendation: Call the advice line available through your health care provider for help evaluating the situation and guidance on where to seek care. Make sure you have the name stored in your contacts so it’s available when you need it.
What other health care apps are essential? Your health insurance company’s app allows you to easily identify in-network providers. Most apps also provide an electronic version of your card, information about your deductible and how much has been met, and other critical information. Log in when you download the app, so it’s ready when you need it
Watch this video to see what, for example, you can do with UnitedHealthcare’s Health4Me app. If you don’t know what apps your insurer offers, ask someone in your human resources department, call the toll-free number on your insurance card or ask during open enrollment.
Make sure your family members—especially your spouse and college-age children—have these apps loaded on their phones. Occasionally remind them that they’re there so they think of them when they’re needed.
1 Comment
December 3, 2014
Janet McNichol
Patient Safety Whiteboard Animations
The Leapfrog Group developed these short, clear patient safety whiteboard animations that explain why we should be concerned about patient safety, how to find a hospital's safety score, and steps we can take to be safe if we're in the hospital.
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November 2014
Volume 19, Issue 11