Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center researchers in a new report contend that CMS miscalculated hospital star ratings, Modern Healthcare reported.
Rush says the agency relied more on one measure rather than weighing all eight in the safety-of-care group equally in the first four releases of the ratings. CMS also weighed too much on complication rates from hip and knee replacements in the most recent release, it alleged.
The academic medical center's report said those measures accounted for nearly all of a hospital’s safety performance.
The one-to-five star rating system, which allows patients to compare hospitals, has not been popular among most health systems. The report gives critics added ammunition to blast them as unfair.
CMS miscalculating and unfairly weighing one measure over another could have huge implications. Patients may choose another facility based on potentially flawed information, with a bottom line effect on hospitals and long-term ramifications on a patient's view of a brand.
Rush is the latest provider group to speak out about the program, and the analysis could cause more delay in updating the ratings if CMS needs to respond. CMS delayed its latest ratings system update again last week, saying it needs more time to address stakeholder concerns about proposed methodology changes.
Provider groups like the American Hospital Association and America’s Essential Hospitals, which represent safety-net hospitals, backed the delay.
AEH president Bruce Siegel said in a statement the group is still "deeply concerned the star ratings could do more harm than good in their current form." Those concerns could be well-founded. A recent report from consulting firm Sullivan, Cotter and Associates and Modern Healthcare reported that safety-net hospitals are less likely to get a five-star rating compared to specialty and critical access hospitals.
The last update in December used a new, more reliable formula, according to CMS. At that time, the star ratings had been delayed for five months after the AHA voiced concerns about the program’s accuracy. That update gave 7% of hospitals one star, compared to 3.6% using the prior method, and 9.1% five stars, compared to 1.7% earlier.