The One Thing Google Should Show When You Search for a Hospital


Today's post is hosted over at LinkedIn, as part of my participation in the LinkedIn Influencers series.

The post is titled: “The One Thing Google Should Show When You Search for a Hospital.”

It's not about Lean per se, but it's about topics that I hope we'd agree are relevant:

  • Transparency of quality and patient safety data
  • Making that data easily available and understandable by patients
  • Using that data to hopefully make better decisions about where we get care
  • Hoping that data, transparency, and choice puts positive pressure on every health system to get better

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Mark Graban The One Thing Google Should Show When You Search for a Hospital LinkedIn

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Full Text:

Back in the day, if you used Google for search, you'd just see a list of websites or relevant ads to click on. In recent years, Google has started presenting more information to you directly on the search page.

What's missing that would be really helpful to the public? Information about the safety and quality of our hospitals.

There's a lot of far less meaningful information that gets presented on Google search results pages. For example, If I search for my local “San Antonio Spurs,” Google shows me the score of the most recent game, a list of their championship years, the current roster, and more. It's very helpful. But, it's just sports.

If I search for a local restaurant, the Google results page shows me basic information on the right side of the page, such as the address, phone number, hours (which are often incorrect), and some customer reviews. It's helpful, but it's just food… although it could be in the public interest to show board of health scores or reviews related to food safety.

If I do something more important, such as searching for a local hospital, Google doesn't give me anything more than a basic map along with the search results and maybe a few consumer reviews. If I had searched just for the name, without “San Antonio,” it returned just a map. Not as useful.

Consumer reviews such as “best hospital ever” are pretty meaningless opinions when we actually have data and more objective rankings available to decide who is better and who is worse. The Google reviews paint a picture of this either being being the “worst hospital” or one with “nice nurses.” None of that is really helpful information if you're deciding where to have surgery. Some searches for major San Antonio hospitals don't return any additional information at all, just the map. (Note: I chose Methodist randomly for this example simply because there WAS information provided by Google).

What else should Google be displaying with the search results? I think Google should display patient safety data and rankings from sources like the federal government's Hospital Compare website or respected private organizations like Leapfrog Group.

Why is this important? It's well known that healthcare costs are too high and are increasing too quickly in the United States. Most other countries aren't happy, either, with the rate of increase in their healthcare spending, even given that they spend less than the U.S.

What's less well known is the patient safety crisis – the biggest crisis that nobody really knows about. Estimates range from 44,000 to 400,000 Americans dying each year due to preventable medical errors. These are really hard numbers to pin down for a number of reasons, but the “worst case” estimates place medical harm as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. But, you hardly ever hear about that.

It would be great if Google pulled data from, for example, the Hospital Compare site. A few representative measures could be selected, displaying on the Google screen how a hospital compares to its peers. Google could work with medical and patient safety leaders to identify measures that would be helpful without being overwhelming.

For example, it would be helpful to know that surgical site infection rates are better than the national average, but worse than the Texas average ( based on data and a chart from Hospital Compare).

A patient might also see that the hospital has joint replacement complication rates that are higher than the national average.

Google could also present the Hospital Compare “quality and value” ranking that's assigned to about 2,500 American hospitals as an overall summary ranking. Being in the “worse mortality & higher payment” area is not a good place for a hospital to be. Ideally, the public would be able to choose hospitals with “better mortality & lower payment” (or at least “better morality,” regardless of the cost).

A more simple approach might be to present the Leapfrog Group's single letter grade that's given to each hospital (or at least it's given to those to participate in the non-profit's survey and process).

Or, Google could present some of the more detailed data as summarized by Leapfrog Group (or link to it).

Here's a rough mockup of how Google might present information like this for a hospital in search results:

Hospitals often complain that these ratings oversimplify things and that the data's not perfect. They might say that the data might mislead or confuse patients. But, I'm not sure how the public and patients are well served by not making data available or by making it more difficult to find. And, most of the public isn't really aware of the patient safety crisis and the fact that some hospitals perform better than others.

The bad news is that far too many patients are being harmed and killed by preventable medical errors. The good news is that better quality and lower cost tend to go hand in hand in healthcare as systemic improvements are made.

My hope is that when patients (and payers) are able to better steer patients toward hospitals that have better quality and lower cost, fewer patients will be harmed and that will put pressure on other hospitals to improve. Not all hospitals have the same performance. A recent HealthGrades study found that the “Top 100 hospitals” (by their national rankings) deliver better quality and less harm:

From 2011-2013, if all hospitals, as a group, performed similarly to hospitals achieving Healthgrades 2015 America's 100 Best Hospitals Award, 172,626 lives could potentially have been saved. For patients treated in hospitals achieving Healthgrades 2015 America's 100 Best Hospitals Award, there is roughly a 26.4% lower risk of dying than if the patients were treated in hospitals that did not receive this recognition, as measured across 19 rated conditions and procedures where mortality is the outcome.”

There's so much work to be done to improve healthcare delivery around the world. Google can play a small part by pulling in data, partnering with organizations, and sharing that data with search users.

What do you think? Why isn't this already happening? What can be done to improve the health quality and safety information that's out there to patients and the public?

What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn – and follow me or connect with me there.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. A timely article from the Wall Street Journal:

    What Are the Best Hospitals? Rankings Disagree

    What makes a top hospital? Four services that publish hospital ratings for consumers strongly disagree, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs.

    No single hospital received high marks from all four services—U.S. News & World Report, Consumer Reports, the Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades—and only 10% of the 844 hospitals that were rated highly by one service received top marks from another, the study published Monday found.

    The measures were so divergent that 27 hospitals were simultaneously rated among the nation’s best by one service and among the worst by another.

    It begs the question – is imperfect data better than no data for patients??

  2. The medical world isn’t ready for this level of transparency which is why the error rate continues to rise. Their fear of facing the truth is killing people. I wish, as community, we could commit to the public to work together, to reduce medical errors. Lay it all out on the table and dig to the root.. for lack of better terms. Honestly evaluate, modify processes, re-evaluate progress.. all the steps that “C” level leaders say they are doing but aren’t doing (at least not effectively).
    The data hospitals report is receiving a face lift prior to submission. :(

  3. In 2013 my health system had a number of hospitals on one of the top 100 lists. In 2014 there were none. I am wondering if a lack of participation in the ranking organization’s conferences had anything to do with it.


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