Healthcare News & Insights

Feds rate hospitals based on patient satisfaction

ThinkstockPhotos-454150515Hospitals are used to receiving star ratings from organizations like the Leapfrog Group or Consumer Reports. Now you can add the feds to the mix. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has just released its new five-star ratings system for hospitals. 

Last week, CMS announced that its Hospital Compare website, designed for consumers to see how their hospitals rank when it comes to certain quality measures, will also include star ratings designed to evaluate the patient experience.

Other sites operated by CMS already have a similar rating system, including Physician Compare, Nursing Home Compare and the Medicare Plan Finder.

Patient satisfaction matters

The bulk of the star ratings come from former patients’ own experience via their answers on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HCAHPS). According to a press release about the rating system, areas the stars will measure include:

  • how well clinical staff communicated with patients
  • whether hospital staff was responsive to patients’ needs
  • how well patients were prepared for recovering at home post discharge, and
  • how clean the hospital was, from patient rooms to waiting areas.

The site will have 12 star ratings: one for each of the 11 publicly reported HCAHPS measures and a summary star rating that gives patients a glimpse of the facility’s overall performance.

Currently, the data used to create the star ratings on the site is based on information provided by patients discharged from almost 3,500 Medicare-certified hospitals between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014. CMS will update the information quarterly as more HCAHPS surveys come in.

How hospitals fare

So far, many hospitals aren’t measuring up when it comes to CMS’ new star ratings. In fact, according to an article in Modern Healthcare, only 251 hospitals received a five-star rating. Most hospitals received three or four stars. But 582 hospitals received two-star ratings, and 101 received one-star reviews.

Some hospital administrators and other healthcare experts oppose the ratings, saying that they simplify the complexities of a hospital stay and don’t paint a full picture of what the patient experience is actually like.

But, like it or not, ratings and other methodologies to make data about pricing and quality more transparent to patients are becoming the norm in health care. Patients want to be more informed consumers, and the feds want hospitals to be held accountable for their performance – and the payments they receive for it.

Easy for patients

Using an easily-recognizable “star” system helps patients see how facilities rank at a glance. And even if the system is oversimplified, it gives patients a decent “starting point” about where their hospital falls in comparison to other facilities when it comes to features of a hospital stay that matter to them most.

“The patient experience Star Ratings will make it easier for consumers to use the information on the Hospital Compare website and spotlight excellence in healthcare quality,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, acting principal deputy administrator for CMS and deputy administrator for innovation and quality, in the news release. “These star ratings also encourage hospitals and clinicians to strive to continuously improve the patient experience and quality of care delivered to all patients.”

And while patients can get information about hospital quality from a variety of sources, they may pay more attention to ratings endorsed by the feds and generated from actual patients’ experiences.

Reason: Patients will think these “official” ratings hold more weight than information found on other third-party review websites.

That’s why it’s important for your hospital to monitor where it falls on CMS’ new rating scale, and strive to improve in the areas where it’s lacking.

Boosting performance

There are several ideas hospitals can try to improve their patient satisfaction scores, from training clinicians to be better communicators to providing better amenities like high-quality meals and updated patient rooms. All can have varying degrees of success, but the ones that are most effective are designed to put the patient’s health, preferences and comfort first above all.

Patient satisfaction may have once been a small segment of quality reporting, but now it’s growing in importance. And with CMS making the results of its HCAHPS surveys more accessible through its new rating system, this should remind hospitals that working to improve the patient experience is important.

Even if the ratings aren’t always a 100% accurate assessment of a hospital’s performance, they can still act as a baseline hospitals can use to improve their care delivery.

A patient’s perception of the care he or she received is becoming just as important as the actual care administered at your facility, so it’s crucial for your hospital to make a good impression on patients throughout their stay.

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