Bondalapati believes much of the confusion could be cleared up if the ranking systems communicated with one another and standardized evaluation methods.
A Wide Variety of Ranking Systems
"It might be difficult for that to occur because all of these ranking organizations are different, with different missions and even in different markets. Some are nonprofits, some are for-profits, some are government organizations," she says.
"Another suggestion is to have a third-party unbiased entity that would look at the ranking and all the quality measures and do their own analysis to make this more understandable for patients," she says.
That makes perfect sense, but it's doubtful that will happen because there is little incentive to change.
In all likelihood, each of the ranking systems uses a different methodology specifically to differentiate themselves from the other rankings. They're each carving out a niche because they know some hospital somewhere will score well on it.
Hospital marketing departments understand that if they don't earn a top grade from Ranking A, they can shop around and find a high score from Ranking B, C, D, E, F, G, or H, or I and hang a self-congratulatory banner atop their website.
"One of our strongest recommendations is that we incorporate a patient perspective more into these hospital rankings so that we know who is catering to the hospitals and who is catering to the patients," Bondalapati says. "And if they are catering to the patients then they should be addressing patient needs instead of their own needs."
Sorry, but if the primary incentive is to make things clearer for patients, don't hold your breath.
John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.