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Patient Advocates Defend CMS Hospital Star Ratings Release

Amidst a flurry of critique, CMS has received some praise for the hospital star ratings release earlier this week.

By Sara Heath

The National Partnership for Women & Families has spoken up in defense of the newly-released CMS hospital star ratings, calling it a “huge step forward” for patient empowerment.

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In a public statement, the National Partnership lauded CMS for releasing the hospital star ratings, saying that this information will help patients obtain better healthcare.

“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.

“Millions of patients and family members can now access a tool that provides important information on how their hospitals are performing on key health quality measures,” she continued. “Consumers can use this trustworthy program to compare hospitals side-by-side. This is a huge step forward.”

The CMS hospital star ratings, which were released on the Hospital Compare website earlier this week, combine 64 quality measures into a five-star rating.

In a blog post announcing the ratings release, Kate Goodrich, MD, MHS, director of the Centers for Clinical Standards and Policy, explained that CMS developed the ratings to help patients make better decisions about their healthcare.

“When individuals and their families need to make important decisions about health care, they seek a reliable way to understand the best choice for themselves or their loved ones,” Goodrich wrote.

“That’s why over the past decade, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published information about the quality of care across the five different healthcare settings that most families encounter.”

Ness wrote that the star ratings achieve that goal and bring the industry closer to delivering better care, fostering better health, all at a lower cost.

“The publication of these ratings is a step toward achieving the Triple Aim; we expect it to foster improvements in patient experiences with care and ultimately help make health care in this country more patient- and family-centered,” Ness wrote.

“The National Partnership and our many allies and partners will do all we can in coming weeks and months to ensure that consumers know about and use the star ratings program.”

Although the star ratings have received positive reception from the National Partnership, other industry groups have not expressed the same. Nearly immediately after CMS announced the updated star ratings, the American Hospital Associated published a statement lambasting the release.

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

According to AHA, the methodology for calculating the star ratings is flawed and over simplifies hospital quality. The organization maintains that patients cannot be well-informed when the star ratings do not accurately portray hospital quality.

“The new CMS star ratings program is confusing for patients and families trying to choose the best hospital to meet their health care needs,” AHA said.

“Health care consumers making critical decisions about their care cannot be expected to rely on a rating system that raises far more questions than answers. And it adds yet another to a long list of conflicting rating and ranking systems.”

Going forward, CMS has stated that it will assess public comments regarding the hospital star ratings. In taking into account the grievances the AHA reports, as well as the praise the National Partnership has given, CMS may be able to develop a ratings system that is both patient-centric and true to hospital quality.

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