AUGUSTA — Mainers have an easy and reliable way to compare the quality of doctors and hospitals around the state, the creators of a new website say.

The Maine Health Management Coalition Foundation, made up of hospitals, medical practices, insurers and large employers, introduced its ratings website — — during a news conference last week at the State House.

It allows patients to enter medical conditions or procedures and see which are the highest-rated doctors and hospitals in and near their communities. The ratings are based on voluntarily reported data such as infection rates and protocols for preventing medication errors.

“Unfortunately, we know all health care is not created equal. There is variation in quality,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, chief executive officer of the foundation. “We need that information. We need it not only to make more informed choices, we need it to improve care.”

The coalition and its partners have been working for years to publicize data about health-care quality. Maine was one of the first states to post basic ratings, on an earlier website several years ago.

That site was difficult for patients to navigate, but it became clear that hospitals, doctors and insurers were checking out the ratings — and trying to improve them, advocates said.

State-by-state comparisons done by the federal government show that Maine improved its overall quality ratings faster than other states in 2009 and had the fourth-highest rating in the nation.

“We know that what gets measured, gets improved,” Mitchell said.

The new site, one of a small number nationwide, was designed with help from patients and is much more user-friendly than the earlier site, she said. The foundation plans to add information gradually, including cost comparisons for medical procedures.

All Maine hospitals are participating, and about 70 percent of Maine physicians are ranked for their care of health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

The effort has been more successful than similar efforts in other states, and nationally, in part because the Maine’s hospitals and doctors generally have supported the idea, advocates said.

Maine’s health-care industry has mixed feelings about it.

“To be sure, there are doctors and hospitals very nervous about this information being made available,” said Dr. Daniel Landry, a physician and the president of Spectrum Medical Group. “Rankings mean there are some at the top and some at the bottom.”

However, Landry said, “patients deserve to know.”

Accessible, accurate and objective information will help patients get more involved in their health care, he said.

Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association, said most physicians support the effort because it is both voluntary and objective. It’s also clear that consumers want it, he said.

“This is far better than the patients going to Angie’s List (a consumer review website) and seeing how a provider is rated by your neighbor” who may have spent longer than usual in the waiting room, he said. “This is objective, and it’s from Maine.”

While officials hope more patients will navigate the new site, they know that large employers and insurance companies already are paying close attention.

Along with employees of some companies, state employees who go to doctors or hospitals with the highest-quality ratings can have their deductibles and copays waived or reduced. That creates an immediate financial incentive for care providers to improve their ratings. It also improves the health of workers and reduces employers’ costs, said Frank Johnson, executive director of the State Employees Health Commission.

The commission was a lead partner in creating the website, along with the Maine Quality Forum, Maine Quality Counts, the Maine Health Access Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.