US News adds Medicare Advantage data to rankings

U.S. News & World Report is now including Medicare Advantage data in the rankings for Best Hospitals, according to a U.S. News blog post.

The publication previously relied on Medicare data, but as more beneficiaries opt for commercial Medicare Advantage plans, U.S. News decided to expand its scope. The next set of rankings, scheduled for publication on July 16, will include risk-adjusted mortality rates for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in 11 adult specialties.

U.S. News weighted mortality scores at 36% of the overall ratings with traditional Medicare data. The weight will shift with the combined mortality score from both Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans.

"Each hospital's combined score will be a weighted average of its risk-adjusted mortality scores in traditional Medicare and in MA, with more or less emphasis on each hospital's MA outcomes depending on the proportion of its Medicare patients who are covered by an MA plan," states the blog post, authored by Ben Harder, managing editor and chief of health analysis, and Min Hee Seo, PhD, senior health data scientist for U.S. News.

U.S. News will include Medicare Advantage outcomes in its procedures and conditions ratings as well.

Beyond the Medicare Advantage mortality data, U.S. News also began excluding patients transferred to a hospital outside of the emergency department from its risk-adjusted outcomes for all specialties.

"Based on input we received from industry experts, this change will remove a potential disincentive for hospitals to receive high-risk patients who may benefit from being transferred, such as certain stroke patients," according to the blog post.

Additional changes include:

1. Outpatient surgery complication rates will be added into otolaryngology, gynecology and prostate surgery ratings.

2. Ovarian cancer surgery and uterine cancer surgery ratings will be combined into one rating.

3. Patients in the observation unit are considered as "time away from home" for the outcomes measure "Giving patients time at home" and the publication is continuing to seek guidance on factoring higher-risk observation stays into mortality scores.

4. The weights of some measures will be adjusted in the rehabilitation ranking, including for staff influenza vaccinations and hospitals with 90% or higher flu vaccination will achieve full credit.

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