Medicare to pick 'five-star' hospitals

AHA worries about how the system will compare hospitals

CMS says it plans to launch a five-star rating system for hospitals and all other health care sites for which it publishes health care quality data by 2016, Cheryl Clark reports for HealthLeaders Media.

In today's issue: Healthgrades recognizes hospitals with 'outstanding patient experience'

The star ratings for about 4,000 hospitals may appear on the Hospital Compare website as early as December of this year, Clark writes. The system likely will be similar to the star rating system the agency uses for nursing homes, physician group practices, and ACOs on the Physician Compare website.

"It's no big secret, but we are moving slowly and there's no big announcement yet," says CMS spokesperson Don McLeod.

According to Clark, it remains unclear how CMS will rate the hospitals and which of its nearly 100 quality measures it will use to do so.

AHA: Be careful how to rate hospitals, present the data

The American Hospital Association's Nancy Foster says the rating system "is clearly intended to provide a quicker and easier way for patients to get a general gestalt of the performance of the hospital or hospitals in which they have an interest."

However, she warns that "when they draw lines between a five-star and a four-star hospital whose difference in performance is miniscule, that just annoys people and I think misleads the public," Foster says. 

Moreover, AHA does not want Hospital Compare to stop publishing specific statistics on its public webpages, Foster says.

"Our perspective is that the most important result of quality measurement activities that have gone on this far have been to inform and encourage hospital quality improvement efforts," Foster says, adding, "for those purposes, the details are important. Knowing the precise number (of how a hospital scored on a particular measure) is important" (Clark, HealthLeaders Media, 4/3).

Ranking the ratings

Some hospital groups have attempted to "turn the tables" on ratings groups by assessing whether their methodologies are clear and if the final grades hold merit.

  • Hospital group grades the rankingsU.S. News and World Report's hospital ratings got just a half-star, and four other rating systems only earned one star, in a report from the Health Care Association of New York State.

  • AMMC: What to make of each hospital rating. The organization says public rating systems should adhere to 25 guiding principles, and none of the current rating systems—such as U.S. News and Consumer Reports—meet all of the criteria.

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