Should we rate hospital ratings? 2 experts say yes

Patients have been inundated with a flood of different hospital quality measures in recent years, including Leapfrog's Hospital Safety Grade, U.S. News & World Report's Best Hospitals rankings and CMS' Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings. But confusion can set in as these organizations use different metrics and formulas and often come to different conclusions about a hospital's quality.

"There is virtually no agreement among the rating systems in identifying 'better' or 'worse' hospitals," according to a recent JAMA viewpoint article. "Hospital ratings systems offer conflicting information, as they rarely agree on which hospitals are top performers and which are poor performers," wrote Karl Bilimoria, MD, and Cynthia Barnard, PhD.

For instance, just one of the 20 hospitals on U.S. News' Honor Roll received a five-star rating from CMS in July.

Drs. Bilimoria and Barnard discussed the possibility of creating a system to "rate the raters", as a way for patients to judge for themselves which hospital quality report cards to reference.

"A system of assessing public hospital ratings would help patients decide which ratings to use and trust," they wrote. In the theoretical ratings system, a report card that used metrics "known to be flawed or untested" would earn a lower grade than others that used well-established and trusted metrics.

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