The U.S. Government has created a new hospital rating system as a means of improving the standard of care received by Americans in these medical facilities. Sixty-four individual measurements rated the 3,617 hospitals, and the star rating was the result of Medicare’s detailed research.
According to the Government, the new ratings will provide a clearer picture of a hospital’s quality than the old system did. The new criteria include Patient Opinions, Mortality Rates, Medical Scan Frequency, Readmissions, and Infection Rates.
- 102 hospitals received a five-star rating (includes a large number of relatively unknown providers)
- 927 hospitals received four stars (includes New York Presbyterian Hospital and California’s Stanford Health Care)
- 1,752 hospitals received the average three-star rating
- 707 hospitals received two-star ratings (includes famed providers such as Boston’s Tufts Medical Center and Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center)
- 129 hospitals received the dreaded one-star rating (includes George Washington University Hospital in Washington D.C, one of five hospitals in the nation’s capital that received the lowest rating)
- 1,042 hospitals were not rated (includes all hospitals in Maryland, as Medicare doesn’t collect the requisite data)
Benefits of the New System
According to Medicare, the new system gives patients the chance to gauge the quality of the nation’s hospitals objectively. The overseer of the quality ratings, Dr. Kate Goodrich, said Medicare had been using the same rating system in medical facilities such as dialysis centers and nursing homes. She claimed the hospital ratings had been a useful tool for patients because publicly available data led to better reporting, access to quality information from hospitals, and an increased desire to improve.
Consumer group Health Care For All also praised the new system and said it allowed hospitals across the country to compare themselves to their colleagues across their respective states.
There has been significant backlash over the findings from medical experts and a number of the hospitals with low ratings. According to a preliminary analysis, hospitals that treated a high proportion of low-income patients received lower ratings than facilities that focused on mid and high-income individuals.
Another criticism is the fact that teaching hospitals typically faced a penalty, as 60 percent of them received below average scores. Once again, it is notable that facilities in low-income areas ended up with poor ratings. A third of the facilities with one-star ratings are teaching hospitals, and a significant number of them are in low-income cities such as Newark and Detroit.
The President of the Association of American Medical Colleges Dr. Darrell Kirch lambasted the new system and said “Hospitals cannot be rated like movies.” Dr. Kirch also said that the hospital ratings system was over-simplified and that it ignores the socio-demographic factors that affect health.
Even medical experts working at hospitals in receipt of high ratings were not impressed. Dr. Elizabeth Mort of the four-star rated Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said she didn’t “put any credence in this.” According to Dr. Mort, the ratings should have taken into account the type of services offered by hospitals along with each facility’s attributes.
It is certainly noteworthy that Medicare didn’t consider specialized care (such as cutting-edge medical techniques) as a factor in the ratings.
While the new ratings offer an “at a glance” overview of a hospital’s quality, it would appear as if the system needs some tweaking. It is difficult to condense 64 ratings into a single score that offers a genuine reflection of a hospital’s quality. Medicare will likely take into account the opinions of medical experts and has another look at its rating system. simplifying things for patients is helpful, but accuracy should never be sacrificed for convenience.