updated 7/14/2004 3:57:35 PM ET 2004-07-14T19:57:35

A group that sets standards for health organizations is making it easier for people to compare the quality and safety of care at more than 16,000 hospitals, nursing homes, home care agencies and other U.S. medical facilities.

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The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations says its new online service, Quality Check, includes information about how such groups perform in four important areas — heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and pregnancy.

The free Web site — www.qualitycheck.org — also shows how hospitals and other facilities rate on meeting requirements to prevent medical mishaps such as misidentification of patients, surgery on the wrong body part, medication mix-ups and hospital-borne infections.

“Americans are demanding information that they can use to make decisions about where to seek treatment,” said Dr. Dennis S. O’Leary, president of the Joint Commission.

The commission has published comparative information on its accredited facilities since 1994. Now patients can get more specific information on whether the facilities are meeting requirements for patient safety, O’Leary said.

Quality Check offers access to a broader range of information than before, including more data specific to common and major illnesses and conditions.

O’Leary said consumers can use the information to talk to their doctor about where they should go for their particular needs.

For people without access to a computer, information can be obtained through the commission’s service line at (630) 792-5800.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency, also provides information on health care.

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