The Maryland Health Care Commission recently unveiled a website aimed at providing Marylanders easy-to-access, up-to-date information about the quality, cost and availability of health care in the state.
The new Maryland Quality Reporting site allows consumers to research everything from hospitals to hospices, nursing homes to assisted living facilities, telehealth to outpatient surgical centers, among other areas. Downloadable checklists and toolkits help consumers make health care decisions, including how to prepare an advance directive. Complaint forms can also be downloaded from the site.
“Focusing on consumers is what the website is designed to do,” said Theressa Lee, director of the commission’s Center for Quality Measurement and Reporting, which oversees the site. “A lot of this is really technical medical information … so the challenge is to see how we can best explain it to consumers, and how we can just highlight the most important (information) so we don’t overwhelm people.”
The commission has been providing Marylanders with health care information since 1999, when the General Assembly consolidated two commissions into one. An independent regulatory agency, and the health policy arm of the General Assembly, the MHCC has a legislative mandate to provide information to the public about the state’s health care system.
What started as a vehicle to distribute health care system reports evolved into separate websites for each sector of the health care system monitored by the commission. Then, Lee said, over the last two years, the commission’s Center for Quality Measurement and Reporting began to integrate all the individual sites into one comprehensive source of information.
The new site’s content was informed by input from consumers. The center used focus groups to determine – and to improve – users’ experience and also acted on public feedback on the site’s previous iterations. The center plans to update and enlarge the site as new information becomes available. Currently, the site is updated every month, though some datasets are updated quarterly.
A growing section of the website concerns health disparities based on race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status and other demographic categories. The section features links to legislative measures concerning health disparities and to resources providing additional health equity data.
Last year, the commission was paired with the Maryland Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to complete an inventory of actions the Health Department is taking to address health disparities. Lee said she hoped the inventory could be posted to the website so Marylanders can get a sense of how the state is responding.
Lee’s colleague Tracey DeShields, MHCC’s director of policy development and external affairs, shares this hope.
“For the first time, it enables us to look at health disparities from a holistic standpoint,” DeShields said. “This inventory will allow that conversation to be had.”
The work is far from finished.
In addition to keeping the website updated, the commission is now focused on ways to advertise the site, including social media campaigns, a partnership with Maryland Public Television and the creation of brochures for public spaces such as libraries.
Additionally, the commission will try to reach Marylanders through health care workers by advertising the website as a resource for patients.
The new website includes a section for providers and researchers that allows them to evaluate their performance compared with that of their peers.
Some stakeholders have worked with the commission from the beginning, helping to make the website “more consumer-friendly, intuitive and data-rich,” said Joseph DeMattos Jr., president and CEO of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, or HFAM.
“MHCC’s work in this area is an important ongoing effort in which we will continue to be a collaborative partner,” DeMattos said. “HFAM applauds this effort.”