Hospital quality ratings tools should let patients decide what's important, RAND says

Hospital rankings and ratings tools should let patients assess organizations based on the quality measures that fit their needs and preferences, according to an analysis by the nonprofit research organization RAND Corp.

In the analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers call for a new hospital ratings strategy by creating tools that let patients choose which performance measures to prioritize.

The different priorities of a pregnant woman and a middle-aged man requiring knee surgery, for example, may alter the hospital with the highest overall rating in the patient's area, the researchers said.

The researchers developed a web tool for making customized rankings. The tool is based on the 2016 Hospital Compare star ratings and lets patients create custom rankings of most U.S. hospitals.

A hospital quality report tailored to the "average" patient may not be a good fit for most patients with individual needs, the researchers said.

"If the intent of hospital quality ratings is to inform patient choice, why not ask patients for their input?" said senior paper author and senior RAND physician scientist Mark Friedberg, MD, senior author of the paper and a senior physician scientist at RAND. "In the internet era, there's no reason why these report cards can't be customized to each individual patient's needs and preferences."

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