The best accessible websites offer more transparent but less appropriate data, all in all the results are often outdated and inconsistent. That is, you do not get easily what really matters, and one hospital ranked top on one site may be at the bottom on another site. Plus the data displayed on the sites may be up to two years old. This is the sobering conclusion of a survey in six hospital comparison websites done by Michael J. Leonardi and co-workers of the University of California, Los Angeles.
One government (Hospital Compare), two nonprofit (Quality Check and Leapfrog Group), and three not specified proprietary sites have been tested. Really interesting data such as surgical outcome measures are only provided by the proprietary sites, and these do not rank top in search engines, two of them take a fee for showing the data. None of the sites explicitly define terms such as complications.
A way out of the data jungle?
Thus, as a consumer of hospital services, you may get easy information that is worth close to nothing, or you may get information that could be valuable, but most likely is inaccurate, outdated or biased, and you may have to pay for it.
Even worse, assuming that these problems will be overcome in the future and you'll get reliable mortality data from surgeons: High mortality rates just may reflect the fact that the best surgeons take care of the most difficult cases.
But there may be a simple solution: For any planned surgery, try to find the hospital with the highest case numbers because it will increase the odds of survival. This has been shown time and again, for instance in stroke, in oesophagus cancer surgery, and in pediatric heart surgery - just to pick some of the most recent studies.