Healthcare News & Insights

Better, worse or the same? CMS updates star ratings again

It’s time to see if your Hospital Compare star rating has changed. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new adjustments to the federal Hospital Compare website, with updates to the measurement data and Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings, but no changes to the existing methodology. 

This comes on the heels of changes made in 2019 to how the Hospital Compare ratings were calculated.

A blog post by CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated that the agency continues to accept feedback on the Hospital Compare star ratings system and hinted they’re not done with fine-tuning it.

What is it?

Hospital Compare is one of nine CMS Compare sites that provide the public with a variety of information to help them make better healthcare choices. It encourages patients to shop around for a hospital using criteria ranging from comprehensive quality of care — the one- to five-star facility ratings — to specific areas of interest, such as value of care, infection control and unplanned hospital visits.

With the clout of the nation’s biggest payor behind them, these ratings can have just as much, if not more, impact on patient perception, and your bottom line, as patient online reviews or the U.S. News & World Report’s hospital rankings. For instance, a best-possible five-star rating could bolster business, while a one-star or two-star rating could scare patients — and revenue — away.

What healthcare organizations think

According to an article on FierceHealthcare, since CMS implemented the star ratings, the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges and others in the industry have criticized the ratings system, saying the data interpretation is inaccurate and misleading.

The article also quoted a statement from America’s Essential Hospitals (AEH), saying they were disappointed by the latest release of the new ratings data, and that it has potential to “disadvantage … hospitals which care for patients who face severe socioeconomic challenges.”

Beth Feldpus, AEH’s senior vice president of policy and advocacy, said in the statement: “The ratings rely on a methodology that fails to account for differences among hospitals.”

Weigh in on star ratings

Because the Hospital Compare star ratings are public information, it’s important to know where your hospital stands and to evaluate if there are any areas that can realistically be improved.

You can make your opinion known at regulations.gov on the upcoming Hospital Compare methodology proposals, which will be included as part of the fiscal year 2021 Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System proposed rule this spring.

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