Medicare Unveils New Online Patient Safety Ratings for Hospitals
Medicare officials last week began publishing patient safety ratings for hospitals across the U.S. on CMS' Hospital Compare website, Kaiser Health News/MSNBC reports.
The data evaluate hospitals based on rates of surgical complications, infections, medical errors and potentially avoidable deaths. The website compares hospitals' ratings with national averages for medical complications and hospital-acquired conditions.
The ratings are part of an initiative mandated by the federal health reform law in which hospitals with the lowest quality ratings will receive lower Medicare reimbursements.
Patient Safety Advocates Commend Ratings
Patient safety advocates have praised the ratings.
Rosemary Gibson -- the editor of a series of articles on overtreatment in the Archives of Internal Medicine -- said, "This is pulling the curtain back on preventable health care harm to older Americans." She added, "These are really good things to know."
Critics Question Fairness of Ratings
The hospital industry and some analysts said that Medicare is using unfair measurements to judge patient safety.
Critics said some hospitals generally care for sicker patients. Others said Medicare's approach is problematic because the data are based on billing claims that hospitals submit to CMS instead of clinical medical records. Hospitals and researchers said hospitals often categorize the same things differently when billing Medicare.
Nancy Foster, a vice president at the American Hospital Association, said, "We believe the [information] is fairly seriously flawed in the way it's calculated," adding, "When inaccurate [information] is out there, it both misleads the public and generates a lot of activity that is unproductive in the hospital."
Atul Grover, head of advocacy for the Association of American Medical Colleges, said the measurements could make teaching hospitals look much worse than other facilities. He said, "If you're not appropriately risk-adjusting on this, you're already selecting a patient population that's more likely to die."
Patrick Romano -- a professor at UC-Davis School of Medicine who helped design the assessment measures -- said the ratings account for sickness levels of patients, although not as thoroughly as Hospital Compare's existing evaluations of mortality rates and readmissions (Rau, Kaiser Health News/MSNBC, 10/17).