No Maryland hospitals have been awarded a five-star rating under a new federal system released by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in April. Even the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital received only four stars.
The one- to five-star rating is based solely on patient surveys and is published on the CMS Hospital Compare website. Of the 43 hospitals across the state that were rated, Johns Hopkins and Mercy Medical Center received four stars, with all others receiving three or below. Other highly regarded medical institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, also received four-star ratings.
“We want to expand this to other areas like clinical outcomes and safety over time, but we thought patient experience would be very understandable to consumers so we started there,” explained Dr. Patrick Conway, chief medical officer for CMS.
The surveys, collected by randomly selecting adult patients, measure 11 different facts of the patient experience, addressing issues such as communication with practitioners, pain management, and whether or not the patient would recommend the hospital to someone else.
In order to assign the ratings, CMS compared hospitals against each other, meaning that even a one-star rating doesn’t necessarily indicate poor care.
But there is some concern that patients will misinterpret the new rating system (or that marketing departments will use it to mislead patients). The American Hospital Association has released a response cautioning patients that “There’s a risk of oversimplifying the complexity of quality care or misinterpreting what is important to a particular patient, especially since patients seek care for many different reasons.”
CMS has taken numerous steps in recent years to update its use of data in ways that influence patient care. That includes the new ratings, as well as initiatives to encourage the use of electronic medical records (said to increase efficiency by about 6% annually, as well as improve patient care) and similar efforts.