Study: CMS’ Online Ratings Fail To Help Patients Compare Hospitals

March 21, 2014 in News

Quality ratings on CMS’ Hospital Compare website lack the data variation needed to adequately help patients distinguish the quality and performance of different providers, according to a study published in the journal Health Services Research, FierceHealthcare reports (Budryk, FierceHealthcare, 3/20).

Background on Hospital Compare Website

In 2005, CMS began posting quality ratings for more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals on its Hospital Compare website.

The site first included data on adherence to basic clinical care guidelines and later expanded to include additional information, such as patient experience scores, readmission rates, mortality rates and complication rates.

In December 2013, the website was updated to track measures under the heading of “timely and effective care” (iHealthBeat, 12/18/13).

Details of Study

For the study, researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine analyzed data on reducing surgical site infections from nearly 3,000 hospitals on the Hospital Compare site. They then separated the hospitals by regions using the information from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care Project (Safavi et al., Health Services Research, 3/11).

According to Health Behavior News Service, researchers found that that the data reported by hospitals had little variation, which could make it difficult for patients to differentiate between hospitals.

Kyan Cyrus Safavi, the study’s lead author, said the pattern of similarity in surgical data “held across many diverse regional geographic areas nationwide” (Stephens, Health Behavior News Service, 3/18).

Recommendations

The researchers said further studies are necessary to develop data reporting requirements that enable effective patient decision-making (FierceHealthcare, 3/20).

Safavi said, “There’s a missed opportunity to provide … patients with more transparent and reliable information to better influence their decision-making.”

Safavi suggested that the Hospital Compare website collect data on additional surgical care processes, including:

  • Organization and safety of the health care providers’ operating environment; and
  • The amount of attention a health care provider gives to a post-surgical care wound (Health Behavior News Service, 3/18).
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