Only 7% of hospitals received five stars from new CMS rating system

The CMS rolled out new star ratings for over 3,500 hospitals this week based on consumer reviews, and only 7% received five-star ratings. Four- and three-star ratings, meanwhile, combined to make up 74% of the total ratings. Another 16% of hospitals received two stars, and 3%—101 hospitals total—received one star.

Hospitals can receive a maximim of 12 star ratings, and 11 are based on Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient survey questions. The survey questions patients about a wide range of topics, including communication with doctors and nurses, pain management and cleanliness of the hospital environment. The 12th star rating represents an overall summary of the HCAHPS data.

Kaiser Health News found a potential bias toward smaller hospitals in its analysis.

“Many [hospitals awarded five-star ratings] are small specialty hospitals that focus on lucrative elective operations such as spine, heart or knee surgeries,” the article said. “They have traditionally received more positive patient reviews than have general hospitals, where a diversity of sicknesses and chaotic emergency rooms make it more likely patients will have a bad experience.”

Also, the data shows that some hospitals received lower-than-expected ratings. Kaiser Health News points out that Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago all received just three stars.

The ratings are available on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, where patients can type in a zip code and begin comparing hospitals. Medicare’s websites for Nursing Home Compare, Physician Compare and Dialysis Facility Compare already use a similar star rating systems.

Patrick Conway, MD, CMS chief medical officer, says these ratings have multiple benefits.

“The patient experience star ratings will make it easier for consumers to use the information on the Hospital Compare website and spotlight excellence in healthcare quality,” Conway said in a press release. “These star ratings also encourage hospitals and clinicians to strive to continuously improve the patient experience and quality of care delivered to all patients.”

CMS says it hopes to offer overall hospital star ratings that go beyond HCAHPS-specific survey questions by 2016.