While CMS applies adjustments to account for sampling methods and patient characteristics of hospitals, an analysis by Dr. Jha’s team showed significant disparities between the rankings of large, academic medical centers and those of small, for-profit hospitals, as well as a substantial difference between hospitals that provide for the greatest number of poor patients and those that serve the fewest.3
However, he writes on his blog, “An Ounce of Evidence,” that survey methodology is not the problem and that he believes star ratings are a good idea. Although some hospitals might find themselves at score cut-offs—a one-point difference can translate to a full star change—it’s a “small price to pay to make data more accessible to patients,” he writes.
“There is pretty good evidence hospitals are paying attention, and one that gets a one or two-star rating may be motivated to be better,” Dr. Jha says.
“Every hospital is interested in this because it’s part of value-based purchasing,” says Trina Dorrah, MD, MPH, a hospitalist and director of quality at Baylor Scott & White Health in Round Rock, Texas.
Dr. Dorrah has authored two books focused on patient experience, and she suggests simple ways hospitals can work toward improving their HCAHPS scores, and potentially their star ratings, from having nurses round with physicians to installing communication-facilitating whiteboards in every room.
Her hospital also awards bonuses to the hospitalist group for achieving set goals. Some hospitalist programs around the country are also adding questions to their surveys to link individual providers to patient rankings, she said, though many also do it in aggregate, because linking patients to individual physicians can get “very messy.”
CMS advises caution in interpreting star rankings, acknowledging that they are not the only valuable measures of care quality. Despite the concern over the contextual value of the new rankings, Demehin says AHA supports use of the HCAHPS survey and the value of patient experience measures and believes they should be consulted in conjunction with other quality improvement efforts.
“When I’m really sick and I go to the hospital, I want to be treated with dignity and respect and I want my pain treated quickly, but I also want to survive and not develop an infection,” Dr. Jha says. “That’s obviously not in the star ratings.”
Kelly April Tyrrell is a freelance writer in Madison, Wis.
- Merlino J, Raman A. Understanding the drivers of the patient experience. Harvard Business Review. Sept. 17, 2013. Accessed May 14, 2015.
- Siddiqui Z, Zuccarelli R, Durkin N, Wu AW, Brotman DJ. Changes in patient satisfaction related to hospital renovation: Experience with a new clinical building. J Hosp Med. 2015;10(3):165-171.
- Jha A. Finding the stars of hospital care in the U.S. An Ounce of Evidence blog. April 20, 2015. Accessed June 4, 2015.