RAND researchers suggested an alternative to hospital ratings in a New England Journal of Medicine perspective on Thursday.
The tool, called the Personalized Hospital Performance Report Card, lets people choose the data most important to them, including mortality, safety of care, readmissions, patient experience, timeliness of care, effectiveness of care and efficient use of medical imaging.
Users can weigh data points to calculate their own overall hospital rating and compare the results with other hospitals.
Hospital leaders closely watch rating results, as a poor rating could hurt a facility's reputation and bottom line. How to properly gauge a quality hospital remains controversial in the industry and, in some cases, has resulted in providers pushing back on ratings and online reviews — sometimes even taking legal action.
Researchers from RAND and the Northland District Health Board offered the tool as a way to resolve concerns about hospital ratings. Namely, it puts the patient in control of figuring out what’s most important by designating higher importance for specific data points. For example, one patient may prioritize safety of care while another is searching for a hospital for a minor procedure and is most concerned about patient experience.
The researchers used 2016 CMS Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings System data that’s available on Hospital Compare to attempt to move away from the one-size-fits-all weighting approach. "By allowing such personalization, creators of performance reports can enhance the value of their overall ratings and rankings to the consumers who might use them," they wrote.
The researchers stressed that the report card is only meant to provide consumer-focused performance ratings, and not meant to address methodological challenges of public reporting.
Hospital leaders remain displeased with those challenges and how they reverberate in the U.S. ratings system. CMS defended its hospital star rating methodology earlier this year after announcing it was making some tweaks to the program. A March report alleged that formula favored specialty hospitals over major teaching hospitals.
U.S. News & World Report also announced methodology updates for its 2018-19 Best Hospital rankings. The Best Hospitals program uses more than two dozen sets of ratings and rankings that include surgical procedures, medical conditions and complex specialty care. The methodology changes for this year added more outcome and patient experience measures as well as revisions to how risk-adjusted mortality rates are used.
A new hospital ranking announced this week is focusing on consumer loyalty. The age of healthcare consumerism has meant hospitals need to think beyond medical care and consider customer service, patient satisfaction, convenience and online presence.