The Maryland Health Care Commission recently unveiled a website aimed at providing Marylanders with up-to-date, easy-to-access information about the quality, cost, and availability of health care in the state.
The new Maryland Quality Reporting site allows consumers to search for 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 healthcare 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 Quality Measurement and Reporting Center, which oversees the site. “A lot of it is technical medical information…so the challenge is 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 body and 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 for distributing reports on the health care system evolved into separate websites for each area of the health care system overseen by the commission. Then, Lee said, over the past two years, the commission’s Quality Measurement and Reporting Center began integrating all of the individual sites into one comprehensive information source.
Content for the new site was informed by consumer feedback. The center used focus groups to determine – and improve – the user experience and also acted on public feedback on previous iterations of the site. The center plans to update and expand the site as new information becomes available. Currently, the site is updated monthly, although some datasets are updated quarterly.
A growing section of the website addresses health disparities based on race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, and other demographic categories. The section contains links to legislation related to health disparities and to resources providing additional data on health equity.
Last year, the commission was paired with Maryland’s Office of Minority Health and Health Disparities to compile an inventory of actions the Department of Health is taking to address health disparities. Lee said she hopes the inventory can be posted on the website so Marylanders can get an idea of how the state is responding.
Lee’s colleague, Tracey DeShields, the MHCC’s director of policy development and external affairs, shares that hope.
“For the first time, this allows us to look at health disparities from a holistic perspective,” DeShields said. “This inventory will help to have that conversation.”
The work is far from over.
In addition to keeping the website up to date, the commission is now focusing on ways to advertise the site, including social media campaigns, a partnership with Maryland Public Television, and creating brochures for public spaces. such as libraries.
Additionally, the commission will attempt to reach Marylanders through healthcare workers by advertising the website as a resource for patients.
The new website includes a section for vendors and researchers that allows them to benchmark their performance against that of their peers.
Some stakeholders have worked with the commission from the start, helping to make the website “more user-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,” said DeMattos. “HFAM applauds this effort.”