You're pregnant, your first language is Vietnamese, and you'd like to find an obstetrician who speaks your language. You had your first baby by emergency C-section, in another state, but you want to try to deliver the second vaginally, and you'd like to find a doctor who seems to use C-sections sparingly. Or you want very much to breastfeed your baby, and you'd like to deliver at a hospital with lactation consultants available.
If you live in the state of Virginia, you're in luck, because the Virginia Health Information (VHI) organization has just released a Web-based, interactive consumer guide to obstetrical care that has just the data you need.
VHI is a private, non-profit organization that was started in 1993 and works with Virginia health care providers, the state government, and the research community to develop health-related databases that support quality health care. The obstetrics guide is the product of several years of work with a special task force and aims to give consumers a balanced picture of what they can expect, what questions they should ask, and information they would find useful in making choices of providers. It allows you to compare hospitals and compare physicians in multiple ways. It also contains a very useful short discussion of clinical issues and a glossary of terms.
Whether you live in Virginia or just want to look at it (wistfully) as a model for your own community, you can find it here. Once there, in the comparison sections, you can search by hospital, by region, and by physician name. The hospital and physician segments also include risk-adjusted performance evaluations on their c-section rates, episiotomy rates, and cost of care. And don't miss the hospital services data under Prenatal Services tab 5. That's where you can find the really cool tips - like which hospitals offer music therapy, birthing balls, or maternal massages to assist you during labor!
Virginia Health Information's new consumer guide to obstetrical services is a great example of transparency in health care information. It's exactly the type of tool we need to empower consumers in their health care decision-making and improve health care delivery and quality all across the nation.