Opinion: Health care needs transparency

By Dr. Dunbar Ivy

When it comes to ensuring health care quality, transparency by medical providers should be at the top of the list.

When making important health care decisions, information about the number of patients cared for, physician experience and patient outcomes is critical. This is information that families should receive willingly from their care team. When a patient has a diagnosis that requires a highly specialized team, transparency becomes more important than ever. Pediatric cardiology is a prime example of this type of specialty in which parents are often placing the lives of their children in physicians’ hands.

Dr. Dunbar Ivy

Dr. Dunbar Ivy

Finding out that your child has a potentially life-threatening heart defect is incredibly stressful and potentially overwhelming. The more information provided to you, especially prior to a procedure, the better. In addition to your care team, there are organizations such as the Pediatric Congenital Heart Association (PCHA) that exist to educate patient families on the importance of asking thoughtful questions and empowering families to advocate for their loved ones.

Some questions families should ask before going ahead with a specific procedure include:

·      How many times have you/your program performed this procedure in the last year? In the last four years?

·      What specialty training do your providers have?

·      What is the expected survival rate for this type of procedure in this hospital?

·      How do your results compare with results nationally?

·      Do you share your procedural results with relevant national data programs?

·      Is your information regarding outcomes publicly available?

(A complete list, along with additional resources can be found on the PCHA website at www.conqueringchd.org.)

If a provider doesn’t answer these questions to your satisfaction, it is always appropriate to ask for a second opinion.

I’m proud to be part of a hospital that is committed to quality outcomes, patient safety and transparency. That is why we have been publicly posting our Heart Institute outcomes data on our website for the past four years. We feel strongly that all programs that perform pediatric heart surgery should do the same.

In today’s health care environment families are faced with a variety of treatment options and providers. Patients and families need to be empowered to access information to make informed decisions. Transparency is key in helping families make important decisions about the care of their loved ones

 Dr. Dunbar Ivy holds the Selby’s Chair in Pediatric Cardiology at Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is also co-director of the hospital’s Heart Institute and director of its Pediatric Pulmonary Hypertension Program. Dr. Ivy’s clinical specialties include pulmonary hypertension, cardiac intensive care and congenital heart disease. He currently serves on the medical advisory board of PCHA.

Opinions expressed in Health News Colorado represent the views of the individual authors.

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