"They certainly use quality measures from Hospital Compare and other places. But they aren't taking into account the findings that regulators have when they go into a facility and use their five senses to identify problems with quality of care, medication errors, wrong side surgeries, and other types of mistakes," he says. "So, it is really important that these rating systems figure out a way to include regulatory findings in the reports."
"Also, whether we like it or not, a lot of the numbers are self-reported by the institutions," Ornstein says. "There are places that have been found to have up-coded their billing to make their patients look sicker than they are, or provided unnecessary surgeries, whether they are stents or back surgeries. And the rating systems don't have a mechanism to take into account those types of things."
Ornstein says the various ranking surveys would better serve consumers if they started using independently verified measures available on Hospital Compare and other Web sites, such as Why Not The Best?, which provide historical information on quality metrics.
"They should look at our Web site, HospitalsInspections.org, which incorporates information about federal deficiency reports against hospitals. There is also information available in every state on state inspections of those hospitals," he says.