Conflicting hospital quality ratings may confuse heart surgery patients, study finds

Hospital quality ratings for heart surgery differ significantly across rankings systems, meaning they may be more confusing than helpful for patients, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons found.

Of over 600 hospitals in a U.S. News & World Report "Best Hospitals for Heart Surgery" ranking, only two of its top-ranked facilities for a common heart surgery were also top-rated for the same procedure by three other ratings systems — CMS, Healthgrades and the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

The researchers analyzed quality ratings in the four systems for two common heart procedures — coronary artery bypass and aortic valve replacement.

Only two hospitals received high performance scores by all four rating systems for coronary artery bypass grafting, and three were rated highly by all four lists for aortic valve replacement.

The study also found 13 hospitals were ranked as better than average performers on both procedures by one rating system and worse than average by another system. No hospitals were rated by all four rating systems as poor performers for either procedure.

"Public ratings of hospitals and surgeons are increasingly being utilized by patients to choose where to seek surgical care," senior study author Ravi Ghanta, MD, told Reuters. "Ratings are also utilized by hospital organizations for marketing to patients and the community. Inconsistency in these ratings could confuse, rather than clarify, decision-making for patients."

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