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The updated information on Hospital Compare includes data on the rates of outpatient MRIs for low back pain, outpatient re-tests after a screening mammogram, as well as two ratios that explain how frequently outpatient departments gave patients “double” computed tomography (CT) scans when a single scan may be all that is needed. Hospital Compare also includes new measures that show how well outpatients are treated for suspected heart attacks, and how well outpatient surgical patients are protected from infection. Previously, Hospital Compare had provided data only about the quality of care provided to hospital inpatients.
The new data include information about whether hospitals overuse MRIs and other imaging tests. Massachusetts hospitals also did better than average on these measures, including providing appropriate follow-up with women who have had routine mammograms and may need further testing, although some hospitals within the state performed better than others.
For example, the agency tracked the percentage of patients with low back pain at a hospital who had an MRI, without trying physical therapy or other recommended treatments first. If a number is too high, it may mean a hospital is doing unnecessary imaging tests. In Massachusetts as a whole, 30 percent of patients had an MRI first, compared with nearly 33 percent of patients nationally. At the Boston teaching hospitals, the rate ranged from 24 percent of patients at Tufts Medical Center to 39 percent of patients at Caritas St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center.