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Medicare adds star ratings to its Hospital Compare website

by | May 7, 2015 | Opinion

By Bob Moos

Are you the kind of consumer who reads reviews or looks for ratings before you shop? Wouldn’t it be helpful to have the same sort of ratings when choosing a hospital?

Emergencies obviously call for rushing to the nearest hospital. But when you have time to plan, it’s worth looking around and deciding which hospital best meets your needs. If you’re considering a facility, you may want to know what its patients thought of their care.

Medicare’s Hospital Compare website – at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html – has just made it easier for you to do that. The site has added star ratings to help you better understand how satisfied recent patients were about their experience at particular hospitals. 

The site already enjoys a solid reputation with the public, showing how more than 4,700 hospitals scored on various indicators of quality care. You can compare hospitals on the basis of such factors as clinical outcomes, customer satisfaction and patient safety.

The new star ratings focus on customer satisfaction and measure how well doctors and nurses communicated with patients, how well the hospital staff managed patients’ pain, how clean and quiet the hospital was and how well the staff prepared patients for discharge.

The ratings come from the responses of patients randomly surveyed about their treatment between July 2013 and June 2014. They’ll be updated every three months on the website, as the government continues to collect surveys of more recent patient experiences.

Medicare assigned stars to more than 3,553 Medicare-certified hospitals nationwide. Another 1,102 couldn’t be included because too few patients completed surveys.

The 277 rated Texas hospitals scored an average of 3.4 stars for patient satisfaction – slightly above average. Eleven percent received five stars, 32 percent rated four stars, 42 percent scored three stars, 14 percent received two stars, and 1 percent had just one star.

Here are the scores for some area hospitals:  Allen – Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen – 3, Garland – Baylor Medical Center at Garland – 3, McKinney – Baylor Medical Center at McKinney – 4, McKinney – Methodist McKinney Hospital – 4, McKinney – Medical Center of McKinney — 3Plano – Texas Health Center for Diagnostics and Surgery Plano – 5, Plano – Heart Hospital Baylor Plano – 5, Plano – Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano – 4, Plano – Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano – 4, Plano – Medical Center of Plano – 3, Rockwall – Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Rockwall – 4.

The ratings for all hospitals can be found at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html.

Hospital Compare’s new star ratings for patient satisfaction will be followed next year by star ratings for hospitals’ overall quality of care, which will include patient safety and clinical outcomes.

By adding star ratings to its Compare websites, Medicare is trying to help you make more informed decisions about your health care. The public reporting also gives low-performing providers a compelling incentive to improve their practices and procedures and, hence, their scores.

Nursing Home Compare already uses star ratings to help you check out nursing homes and choose one with quality in mind. The Physician Compare and the Dialysis Facility Compare sites have just begun including star ratings. And Home Health Compare will add stars later this year.

Of course, as informative as these websites can be, they can’t tell the whole story about where to go for care. They’re simply a screening tool that lets you focus on a few providers that interest you.

Visit with your doctor about the best hospital for you. Research shows that some hospitals do better than others at treating certain conditions. And talk to family members and friends about what they liked or disliked about their recent hospital stays and which facilities they’d recommend.

Medicare also recently updated its “Guide to Choosing a Hospital,” which includes a checklist of questions to ask your doctor and explains how to find the hospital that’s the right fit for you. A free copy can be downloaded at medicare.gov or requested by calling Medicare at 1-800-633-4227.

Once you’ve done your homework, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’ve made an informed choice about your care. Then you can concentrate on the rest of your preparations for your hospital stay.

Bob Moos is Southwest regional public affairs officer for the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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