'Mixed messages' to patients found in Hospital Compare ratings, penalty programs

Megan Knowles - Print  | 

Patients using the CMS Hospital Compare website are receiving mixed messages on facilities' readmission rates when comparing the website's hospital grades to penalties imposed by CMS' Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, a study published in The American Journal of Managed Care found. 

"The value signal to consumers and hospitals communicated by grades and penalties is therefore weakened because the methods applied to the same hospital data produce conflicting messages of 'average grades' yet 'bad enough for penalty,'" the researchers said.

The researchers compared Hospital Compare grades for heart failure and acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) readmissions with scores for excess readmissions used to set penalties under the readmissions reduction program for these conditions.

Of the 2,956 hospitals with publicly reported heart failure grades on Hospital Compare, about 92 percent were graded as "no different" than the national rate for heart failure readmissions, but about half (48.6 percent) scored high for heart failure readmissions under the penalty program, and 87 percent received an overall readmissions penalty. 

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