It’s hard to say if HCA patients know anything about the history of HCA, or about the kind of problems the Times reported on. How much can they really learn about a facility before undergoing risky heart procedures? HCA told the Times that more than 80 percent of its hospitals are in the top 10 percent of government rankings for quality. That, of course, raises another question: Whether quality rankings—no matter who puts them out—can reveal the kinds of practices the Times uncovered. How do unnecessary procedures that turn out well get factored in?
The history of HCA shows that big money and patient care don’t always mix. What happens when there are fewer and fewer systems owning the nation’s hospitals, giants with similar hunger for profit, perhaps jeopardizing patient care? More than ever we’ll need good investigative reporting to tell us.
And not just The New York Times. In a coming post, we’ll take a look at how the Tampa Bay Times demonstrates what a local news outlet with HCA hospitals in their communities can do. The Tampa Bay folks took The New York Times findings and pushed the story further, to good effect.