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Among Oklahoma hospitals

Some hospitals also make available cost information when asked. Among them, OU Medical Center and Integris Baptist Medical Center have online price request forms. St. Anthony hospital answers to e-mails and phone calls.

Sandra Payne, St. Anthony vice president of marketing and communications, said the hospital tries to provide patients an understanding of their bills and their components. As patients receive multiple bills for hospital stays, and insurance coverage can be complex, confusion is common. "We try to provide as much information as we can," she said.

Halstead distinguished between the "process" measures that researchers and consultants work on and "outcome" measures that interest patients. An outcome measure might be the number of surgeries a doctor has performed, while a process measure might be whether a doctor has ordered a test of left ventricular strength for heart failure patients. "Unfortunately," she said about outcome measures, that it is not the kind of stuff, which is out there now. Process measures, she said, make things standardized and fair for hospitals regardless of size, location or number of cases of a sickness they treat.

"It's a fair thing to look at," she said. "It's across the board did you do this process or not?" Even though some doctors have criticized the processes as "cookie-cutter medicine" and complained about the burden of collecting the information, Halstead said they symbolize medical experts' consensus of the best care. (OTCBB: BCAE)

"They can say: 'Does my hospital do those processes that have been identified to give me the best chance of survival?'" she said of patients.

Susan Dragoo, Integris vice president of quality and medical staff services, said patients must consider what lies behind a hospital's openness in publishing its data.

She said, "I think willingness to do that indicates a desire to improve. That in turn is going to result in better care. It's important to have that accountability mechanism." Bratzler attributed the public's lack of interest in better transparency to complexity in understanding the issue, the state's lack of a dominant industry or employer group, and the number of people hospitals employ.



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