Website Enables Patients to Compare Safety of Clinics

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SAN DIEGO—Bay Area dialysis centers have widely varying safety records, with some reporting much higher death, hospitalization and infection rates than others, new data reveal.

Beginning Tuesday, people can go to a free website to see how clinics in the Bay Area and throughout the nation stack up on 16 quality measures.

The goal is to help patients make wise choices about where to seek care and to encourage poor-performing centers to improve.

"It doesn't matter if someone's blood is cleaned really well if they acquire an infection and die," said Roberta Mikles, a retired nurse and San Diego-based patient safety advocate. "This gives you a pretty clear picture of what's going on in the facility."

The website was put together by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to investigative journalism.

ProPublica created the website two years ago after obtaining data through the Freedom of Information Act.

Now, ProPublica has added statistics through 2010 and included a new category: How often patients are rushed to the emergency room.

People can view the information at http://projects.propublica.org/dialysis.

Nearly 400,000 Americans rely on dialysis to do what their failed kidneys cannot -- remove waste products and excess fluids from their blood.

But dialysis can be difficult and time-consuming, and it often leaves patients vulnerable to infection and other medical problems, making it crucial for clinics to maintain strong cleanliness standards.

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