CMS has updated its Hospital Compare star ratings following a lengthy delay while it rolled out new methodology.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services postponed the star ratings, which are usually released in the summer, to gather feedback. It updated several measures using public feedback and recommendations from its Technical Expert Panel, the agency announced.
The updated formula (PDF) led to more hospitals earning a one- or five-star ranking, though the majority remain between two and four stars, as was the case in previous years. CMS is putting less emphasis on certain measures as well, including patient experience, while putting more weight on readmissions and timeliness of care.
"We continue to refine the star ratings and look forward to an ongoing dialogue with hospitals and patients and their families on how we can provide beneficiaries useful information," CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in the announcement.
The overall breakdown of hospital rankings is:
- One star: 260 (7%)
- Two stars: 753 (20.4%)
- Three stars: 1,187 (32.2%)
- Four stars: 1,155 (31.1%)
- Five stars: 337 (9.1%)
Compared to 2016's ratings, the number of five-star hospitals has more than tripled from 102. Just 78 hospitals would have earned five stars this year under the previous ratings system.
The report also includes a breakdown on how hospitals performed on several key measures when compared to the national average. In general, hospitals performed at or above the national average in most areas, but 35.4% (1,378) performed below the average on readmissions and 32.1% (1,120) performed below average on patient experience.
CMS's Hospital Compare star ratings are controversial among providers. Industry groups argue that the ratings are unfairly weighted to the detriment of hospitals that treat low-income or highly complex patient populations.
Analysts have said that patients may find the data "confusing at best and misleading at worst" in the star ratings' current form. Groups that provide such rankings however, including Healthgrades, argue that it's key for patients to have access to such quality data.