WASHINGTON The federal government is spending nearly $1.9 million on newspaper ads around the country that disclose hospital satisfaction rates, part of a unique campaign to improve health care through the power of publicity.
The full-page ads will show for better or worse how patients rated more than 2,500 hospitals nationwide.
The ads feature two questions: The percentage of patients who always got help when they needed it, and the percentage of patients who got antibiotics one hour before surgery. The latter question reflects broad interest in curbing infections acquired at the hospital.
The ads reflect an emphasis by the Bush administration to increase transparency in the health-care system. Officials say greater public disclosure of costs and quality will drive providers to improve on both fronts.
While some hospital administrators might not like being singled out, the industry supports the effort and helped craft the comparison questions. Patients will benefit because the information is educational and will lead to better care, said Charles Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals.
"It's a twofer for the consumer, and any efforts to promote it are useful," Kahn said.
The ads are running in 58 newspapers in 49 states. The lone exception was Delaware, but hospitals in that state will be cited in the Philadelphia newspapers.
In the ads, the government will list the percentage of patients who always got help when they needed it, along with a statewide average.