Did you know that before considering a procedure at your local hospital that you can find out how it’s rated?

According to Kaiser Health News, the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) is thinking of formulating a star-rating system or other display so that prospective patients can understand the information posted on care quality.

But a rating system is nothing new.

 Hospital Comparisons

CMS began posted their quality ratings for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals back in 2005.  These ratings could be found on its Hospital Compare website.

The site showed how well medical facilities followed   basic clinical care guidelines and later added categories including:

  •  patient experience scores
  • readmission rates
  • mortality rates
  • complication rates

(iHealthBeat, 4/25).

However, the current system has its inherent faults.     Leapfrog President Leah Binder pointed out that CMS’ data are based on statistical tests that end up finding most hospitals indistinguishable from one another on major performance measures. Illustrating this point, she said ” nine out of 10 hospitals’ mortality rates are described as “average” on the Hospital Compare website”.

“If their plan is to give the same number of stars to all hospitals, at best it will be boring. At worst it will be misleading,” Binder said (Kaiser Health News, 7/18).

 Proposal of New Rating System

According to the Kaiser Health News, ratings would be formulated on  100 quality measures which are already accessible to the public. (if you can dig it out and understand it)

CMS stated: “Visual cues can be an important way to help medicament ventolin patients understand how their hospital measures up to others,” the agency said. CMS requested input from the public about “user-friendly, creative designs for a rating system to help patients get information so they can take an active role in their care.”

Concern For Ratings Expressed

Understandably, the proposed rating system has created some concern. (especially for sites that would garner poor ratings and for those ratings to be made public knowledge) 

The Association of American Medical Colleges wrote that a star rating system “may make inappropriate distinctions for hospitals whose performance is not statistically different” or “exaggerate minor performance differences on measures.”

Massachusetts General Hospital President Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital remarked  “The quality information we’re now using in health care is pretty crude and needs to get a lot better.”   While he feels that letting patients in on a rating system more comprehensible  is of value, he warns that the system should be based on more sophisticated data.

Slavin said  “At some point if you oversimplify things, you’re not providing people with information that is all that meaningful or helpful.”

If hospitals get poor ratings in certain areas, it seems to me that this is an enticement to improve in these areas.  In the meantime, as a patient considering where to go for surgery or important treatments, I’d certainly want to know (in the most accurate yet simplest way possible).

Wouldn’t you?  Share your thoughts in the comment box below.