CMS posts death rate estimates for hospitals

For a long time, hospital-specific death rates were secrets. Administrators argued that publishing such rates was unfair, as it would be easy to make unfair comparisons if rates weren't adjusted properly for acuity. That being said, CMS has essentially taken things out of their hands. The agency has made estimates by specific hospital and posted that information on its quality website, hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.

The data offers comparisons of performance on more than two dozen measures, including death rates for pneumonia, heart attacks and heart failure. The formula used to calculate death rates captures all deaths among 35 million Medicare beneficiaries occurring within 30 days of the patients' hospital admission. The formula took into account the hospital's patient mix and how many deaths would be expected in those populations.

While the data is more specific than it has been in the past, it's still using somewhat conservative measures, critics say. The death rate scoring ends up rating the majority of hospitals as average, which doesn't do much to guide employers or consumers in their health purchasing decisions. However, the new measures have little to complain about, others say.

To learn more about the ratings:
- read this USA Today article

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