How to Improve CMS's Star Ratings

John Commins, October 9, 2017

More granular analyses of performance on specific medical conditions and procedures would make Medicare's hospital compare program's Star Ratings system more effective, says one observer.

For a second time in four months, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has delayed publishing revisions to its Star Ratings, which means the hospital comparison tool may not be available to the public until next year.

Rita Numerof, an author and veteran healthcare observer and consultant, believes CMS should use that extra time to reconsider some of the shortcomings of the Star Ratings system. She spoke with HealthLeaders Media about some of those challenges, and how CMS can improve the measures. The following is an edited transcript.

HLM: What needs to happen to make Star Ratings better?

Numerof: We need to make the information accessible and it has to be user friendly. The more there is scrutiny from experts around minutiae that delays the general public getting access to important information related to the performance of these hospitals, that is a problem. That is a delay tactic and it is not in the public interest.

When payment requires hospitals to focus on quality and outcomes they were able to get their act together and do it. Any industry would prefer having little to no oversight. We need a focus on transparency, quality, real accountability across the continuum and information that is made available to the consumer so that they can make meaningful choices about what is important to them.

HLM: We hear a lot of complaints about the weight given to patient experience.

Numerof: Patient experience is important, but it is not the same thing as the quality and safety of the care that I receive, and the ability of that institution to make sure that they do not have a surgical site infection, etc. Both are important, but to lump them together could really cloud the so-called quality of that particular institution.  

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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