CMS Posts Star Ratings for Medicare Dialysis Facilities Online

January 26, 2015 in News

On Thursday, CMS launched an online star-rating system for dialysis facilities, which will allow Medicare beneficiaries to evaluate care quality for more than 5,500 providers, Modern Healthcare reports (Rice, Modern Healthcare, 1/23).

The star-rating system was added to Medicare’s Dialysis Facility Compare site, which already included information about hospitalization and fatality rates, according to AP/U.S. News World Report (AP/U.S. News World Report, 1/22).

The addition of the star-rating system comes as part of a broader federal effort to increase transparency and help Medicare beneficiaries compare providers, according to Modern Healthcare.

Details of System

The star-rating system ranks dialysis facilities on a scale from one to five stars.

The ratings were determined based on publicly reported quality measures, including:

  • KtV values, which indicate whether enough waste was taken from a patient’s blood during dialysis;
  • Rates of patients with high calcium levels; and
  • Standardized transfusion ratios.

In the first round of ratings, 565 out of 5,580 facilities received five stars, or “much above average quality,” while 545 facilities received one star, or “much below average quality.”

Advocates, Providers Criticize Ranking System

Kidney care providers took issue with the original ranking methodology last fall and asked CMS to wait longer before launching the system. However, CMS in November 2014 said it would move forward.

In a statement, Kidney Care Partners — a coalition of providers, dialysis professionals, manufacturers and patient advocates — said, “The calculation of the scores is based on a forced bell curve, which distorts the actual facility performance,” adding, “The results mislead patients and misrepresent the quality of care provided” (Modern Healthcare, 1/23)

Meanwhile, the National Kidney Foundation in a statement said the star rating system might fail to represent a facility’s quality or present other factors patients should consider. For example, the star-rating system does not include staff attentiveness as a quality measure.

CMS’ Response

Kate Goodrich, Medicare’s quality measurement director, said the star ratings are not the only factor patients should consider when deciding on a provider.

She added that facilities with low rankings should view the rating as an incentive to improve (AP/U.S. News World Report, 1/22).

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