Patient Satisfaction News

CMS Updates Quality Compare Sites for Patient Health Decisions

CMS has added Compare websites for IRFs and LTCHs to help patients make informed treatment and health decisions.

By Sara Heath

CMS has launched two new healthcare quality compare websites and will be implementing updates to several existing ones to better inform patients making health decisions, according to an agency blog post.


The post, authored by CMS Acting Principal Deputy Administrator Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, and Kate Goodrich, MD, MHS, Director of the CMS Center for Clinical Quality and Standards, outlines the agency’s new compare websites for Inpatient Rehabilitation Facilities (IRFs) and Long-Term Care Hospitals (LTCHs).

“The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to work diligently to make health care quality information more transparent and understandable for consumers. At CMS, one of our top priorities is to help individuals make informed healthcare decisions for themselves or their loved ones based on objective measures of quality,” Goodrich and Conway wrote.

“The CMS Compare websites are reliable sources of information where individuals can compare the quality of health care providers, facilities, and health plans, highlighting that people have a choice in their care.”

IRFs are free-standing units in hospitals aimed toward intensive rehabilitation led by a multidisciplinary care team. LTCHs are categorized as acute care facilities, but patients tend to stay for more than 25 days. According to Conway and Goodrich, many of the patients in LTCHs are transferred there from the hospital intensive or critical care units.

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The quality data shown for both IRFs and LTCHs include the percentage of patients who have new or worsened pressure ulcers and all-cause readmission after 30 days.

The compare websites will assess this data for more than 1,100 IRFs and 420 LTCHs across the country.

While also a part of the nation’s push toward better quality transparency and value-based care, these compare websites are a part of federal mandates.

“Under the Affordable Care Act, both IRFs and LTCHs are required to report quality data to CMS on a number of quality measures and health outcomes,” said the poste. “These new tools take this data and put it into a format that can be used more readily by the public to get a snapshot of the quality of care each hospital provides.”

Conway and Goodrich also announced that the agency will soon offer Hospice Care Quality Data via the Hospice Data Directory. This data will include national average scores on both the Hospice Item Set (HIS), which measures provider performance, and the CAHPS Hospice Surveys, which reflects patient experiences in hospice care.

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Hospice Compare will be available in the summer of 2017.

Additionally, CMS has made updates to the Hospital Compare websites. Overall, CMS has updated Hospital CAHPS survey and patient satisfaction data, added five new oncology quality measures from the Prospective Payment System – Exempt Cancer Hospital Reporting Program, and added a measure regarding readmissions following coronary artery bypass graft surgery.

The agency also addressed planned updates to the Physician Compare website. First, CMS will add more data about group practices, individual clinicians, and accountable care organizations on the website.

Second, the agency will conduct a redesign of the Physician Compare website to be more user-oriented and to emulate the IRF and LTCH Compare websites. The redesign will reportedly undergo significant user pilot testing and will follow industry best practices for patient-facing technology.

According to Conway and Goodrich, all of these updates are targeted toward helping healthcare consumers to make better, more informed decisions about their treatment.

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“Consumers have many options when choosing a health care provider. Providers vary in the quality of the care they give, and everyone wants to choose the provider who will be best for themselves or their loved ones,” the pair said.

“Yet frequently the choice must be made quickly and without the time for consumers to locate and review a wide range of information sources,” they continued. “Our goal with these Compare websites is to provide the public with information that they can use when making important decisions about care.”

CMS reintroduced their Compare websites and star ratings in the summer of 2016. In a separate blog post, Goodrich explained that the agency had positive intentions in creating these programs, especially the star ratings, noting that they will simplify the decision-making process for patients.

However, the release of the star ratings, which boil down 64 quality measures, were met with dismay from some provider groups. The American Hospital Association (AHA), for example, issued a statement saying the star ratings were released before their methodology was perfected.

“We are further disappointed that CMS moved forward with release of its star ratings, which clearly are not ready for prime time,” the organization wrote.

“As written, they fall short of meeting principles that the AHA has embraced for quality report cards and rating systems. We want to work with CMS and the Congress to fix the hospital star ratings so that it is helpful and useful to both patients and the hospitals that treat them.”

Additionally, AHA argued that the star ratings and Compare websites are confusing for patients and caregivers and do not assist in making care decisions.

In contrast, the National Partnership for Women & Families, a patient advocacy group, praised the CMS star ratings and Compare websites.

“Consumers will be able to make smarter, better informed choices about their health care thanks to the hospital star ratings tool the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released today,” said Debra L. Ness, President of the National Partnership.

According to Conway and Goodrich, these additions and updates are aimed at mitigating industry critique such as that from AHA, and serving patients and their caregivers. Through better interface design and updated quality data, the pair say the Compare websites will help patients make treatment decisions in several different healthcare facilities.

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