What's your score, star rating, wait time? 5 ways patients are finding out

Transparency is quickly becoming the name of the game in healthcare. As efforts continue to size up and compare physician and hospital performance, online rating systems multiply. Here are five organizations or groups helping patients detangle the scores of data out there and making providers more accountable for outcomes of care.

1. ProPublica. In addition to the newly released Surgeon Scorecard — an online tool that ranks surgeons by complication rate — this nonprofit investigative newsroom has launched a number of other efforts to increase transparency in the healthcare space. These include Dollars for Docs, a searchable database based on CMS' Open Payments data that shows how much money physicians have received from pharmaceutical and medical device companies for various services; Prescriber Checkup, an online tool for the public to compare the drug choices of physicians within Medicare Part D; Nursing Home Inspect, a digital guide to the deficiencies and penalties faced by nursing homes across the country; and Dialysis Facility Tracker, a site for patients to compare the quality of care at individual dialysis clinics.

2. Yelp. The popular consumer review site teamed up with ProPublica earlier this year to supplement its reviews with information from the newsroom's interactive databases. Yelp users can still see the candid anecdotal reviews authored by other users, but now in the context of cold, hard facts gleaned from CMS data of 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes and 6,300 dialysis centers. Data is updated quarterly. It's located on the righthand side of each hospital's Yelp page.

3. Hospital-based reviews. This August, Pittsburgh-based UPMC, Great Neck, N.Y.-based North Shore-LIJ Health System and San Diego-based Scripps Health joined the ranks of seven other health systems in posting patient satisfaction surveys and/or star ratings of their physicians online. UPMC, in particular, provides entirely candid and (mostly) uncensored reviews of its providers, save any with profanity or secure information. Other health systems with similar initiatives include Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health Care, which says it was the first to publish online ratings, and Cleveland Clinic.

4. Consumer Reports. In addition to an arsenal of resources for choosing a physician — including ratings of California, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Wisconsin providers; ratings of heart bypass surgeons; and a panel of medical advisers — Consumer Reports published infection rates of more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals this summer. Their hospital ratings show patient safety scores, patient experience, patient outcomes and other hospital metrics. The ratings attempt to group and summarize a number of different public data sets, which include data on CMS' Hospital Compare site and other state-based websites.

5. CMS' star ratings. This April, CMS added a new feature to its Hospital Compare website: star ratings. The five-star rating system is based on hospital HCAHPS scores and is meant to make data on Hospital Compare more palatable for consumers and encourage improvement among providers. More than 3,500 hospitals with sufficient data now have 12 star ratings — a Summary Star Rating and 11 sub-ratings on publically-reported HCAHPS measures.


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