The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services rated more than 3,600 hospitals based on 64 factors that Medicare has previously used to rate the quality of hospitals. These factors include measures like death rates, patient experience and safety of care, but do not account for hospitals that provide specialty care.
Five D.C. hospitals received one-out-of-five star ratings, including MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. MedStar Georgetown and GW Hospital both train medical residents.
Hospital officials often argue that rankings do not fairly account for hospitals that treat the toughest cases, Kaiser Health News reported.
Kate Goodrich, the director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality who oversees Medicare’s quality ratings, said in a statement that the ratings “empower” patients to choose healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals.
“We have received numerous letters from national patient and consumer advocacy groups supporting the release of these ratings because it improves the transparency and accessibility of hospital quality information,” Goodrich said.
Only 102 hospitals received five-star ratings, and Kaiser Health News reported that many of these are “relatively obscure,” or are highly specialized.
Some critics of Medicare’s rating system argue that the standards by which the hospitals are measured are not “well-designed.”
Steven Lipstein, the president of BJC HealthCare, told Kaiser Health News that the results reflect the affluence of the patients being served. Lipstein said that lower-scoring hospitals are usually located in less-affluent areas. Medicare does not consider the wealth of patients when rating hospitals.
“The stars tell you more about the socio-demographics of the population being served than the quality of the hospital,” Lipstein said.
Darrell Kirch, the president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said in a statement that the ratings are over-simplified and could mislead patients.
“Hospitals cannot be rated like movies,” Kirch said. “We are extremely concerned about the potential consequences for patients that could result from portraying an overly simplistic picture of hospital quality with a star rating system that combines many complex factors and ignores the socio-demographic factors that have a real impact on health.”