Under pressure, CMS delays hospital ratings release

Dive Brief:

  • On Wednesday, CMS in an email to a hospital listserv announced it will postpone the schedule of its hospital quality-rating system.
  • The move comes a day before the system's scheduled release date and shortly after 225 House members and 60 senators urged for a delay.
  • The agency stated the ratings' public release will occur in July.

Dive Insight:

CMS’ star-rating system is meant to help consumers shop for the best hospital experience by identifying facilities with high quality of care and positive outcomes. The agency uses 62 quality measurements to rate hospitals on a five-star system.

However, certain flaws in the system’s design weight it against teaching hospitals that treat patients from the lower end of the socioeconomic scale, as well as patients requiring more complicated procedures, the House members' letter to CMS stated.

“We are concerned that the hospital star ratings, in their current form, may be unfairly masking quality or, possibly, over-weighting of patient experience measures and will therefore not help consumers make well-informed decisions about which hospitals to use,” the 225 House members wrote.

“CMS is committed to working with hospitals and associations to provide further guidance about star ratings,” the agency's notice was quoted in Kaiser Health News. “After the star ratings go live in their first iteration, we will refine and improve the site as we work together and gain experience.”

The update to the measure data, originally scheduled for April 21, will be pushed back to May 4. The preview period for the Hospital Compare release will be available May 6. "Hospitals will have 30 days to review their data prior to the public release of information in July," CMS stated in the email.

It will also host a call on May 12 to answer stakeholder questions and help hospitals understand their hospital specific reports as well as explain the methodology in detail.

The agency had already released hospital ratings based on patient's appraisals last year. Only 251 hospitals got five stars at that time. A study published in JAMA earlier last week found CMS' system could correspond to patient outcomes as higher star ratings were associated with lower patient mortality and readmissions. 

In the recently published JAMA study, researchers looked at the association between number of stars and patient 30-day mortality and readmission rates. Among the hospital characteristics they adjusted for were: Hospital size, ownership, teaching status, rurality, ICU, and hospital referral region.

Only about 4% out of the 3,076 hospitals in the sample, which was restricted to acute care hospitals with at least 25 hospitalizations, received 5 stars. Most hospitals (47%) received 3 stars. 

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Filed Under: Hospital Administration