CMS 5-star hospitals have lower mortality and readmission rates, study finds

Even though CMS' star ratings system for hospitals is based solely on patient experience scores, researchers from Harvard have found that higher rated hospitals do in fact have lower mortality and readmission rates than their lower rated counterparts.

The research was published in JAMA Sunday. For the study, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health researchers looked at the association between 3,076 hospitals' star ratings as of October 2015 and their mortality and readmissions rates across three conditions (heart attacks, pneumonia and heart failure) using Medicare data. They also adjusted for hospital and patient characteristics.

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High star ratings were associated with lower readmission rates:

  • Five-star hospitals: 18.7 percent readmission rate
  • Four-star hospitals: 20.2 percent
  • Three-star hospitals: 21 percent
  • Two-star hospitals: 21.8 percent
  • One-star hospitals: 22.9 percent

Additionally, hospitals with more stars had lower mortality rates:

  • Five-star hospitals: 9.8 percent mortality rate
  • Four-star hospitals: 10.4 percent
  • Three-star hospitals: 10.5 percent
  • Two-star hospitals: 10.7 percent
  • One-star hospitals: 11.2 percent

This data could ease the fears of some experts who spoke out against Hospital Compare's star rating system when it was released last year because it only touches on patient experience and does not include outcomes data.

"These findings should be encouraging for policymakers and consumers; choosing five-star hospitals does not seem to lead to worse outcomes and in fact may be driving patients to better institutions," the authors concluded. "It is reassuring that patients can use the star ratings in guiding their healthcare-seeking decisions given that hospitals with more stars not only offer a better experience of care, but also have lower mortality and readmissions."

Additionally, this study aligns with a separate study released last week in the Journal of Patient Experience that found hospitals with higher patient experience scores had lower complication rates and lower readmission rates.

More articles on patient experience:
Patient first care: Is your hospital really delivering?
Texas hospital OR staff recorded mocking sedated patient 
The patient as a consumer: Incorporating technology to improve the patient experience

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