NU Online News Service, Oct. 13, 2004, 4:03 p.m. EDT

The old-fashioned way to find a great hospital is to ask a nurse.[@@]

Now Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, New York, is trying to give patients a more systematic way to find good hospitals. It is offering health plan members access to Hospital IQ, a Web-based hospital-selection tool that draws on a detailed care quality database.

Users can find the number of patients treated for more than 170 different conditions, such as abdominal aortic aneurysms, at individual hospitals. Users also can get hospital-by-hospital information about complication rates and average lengths of stay for specific procedures.

Empire Blue, a unit of WellChoice Inc., New York, has been testing the tool since 2002.