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Get Ready for Medicare's 5-Star Hospital Ratings

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 3, 2014

AHA: Details Matter
In a phone interview Tuesday, Nancy Foster, Vice President for Quality and Patient Safety Policy for the American Hospital Association, said she also has not heard what CMS plans to do precisely. But she has heard conversations in which CMS officials have described their intent to move to "stars or bars."

At a recent meeting of the National Quality Forum, Foster recalled, Kate Goodrich, director of CMS' Quality Measurement and Health Assessment Group, related that it "would not necessarily be a system that would be one set of stars that rated the overall hospital, the way you look at some rating systems that look at hotels." But that the agency might cluster some measures.

Foster asked her how the agency would handle measures that had very little performance variation, "because frankly, when they draw lines between a five-star and a four-star hospital whose difference in performance is miniscule, that just annoys people and I think misleads the public."

Goodrich replied that the agency had taken that under consideration, Foster says. And because that is a known issue, may not use star rankings for all the measures, just for some.

"Maybe they have a more concrete idea of what they are proposing, but it has not yet been made public to the best of my knowledge," Foster says. "It is clearly intended to provide a quicker and easier way for patients to get a general gestalt of the performance of the hospital or hospitals in which they have an interest." And that's fine, she says.

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