Is your hospital worth five stars?

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Hospitals may soon compete for coveted five-star ratings under a new Medicare proposal.

The proposed rating system will be designed to make it easier for patients to compare hospitals against gold standards. 

The star ratings will appear on the Hospital Compare website and be based on some of the 100 quality measures already published by the agency, according to Kaiser Health News.

Though the industry has various ways to measure hospital performance, they're often hard for patients to digest and understand. Hospital Compare, for example, publishes details about hospitals, including death rates, doctor communication skills, infection rates for various surgeries, emergency room efficiency and overuse of CT scans.

KHN points out that proposed rules set forth by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services for hospitals starting Oct. 1 asked for ideas about how to better display quality measures and performance information on Hospital Compare. "One option we have considered is aggregating measures in a graphical display, such as star ratings," CMS says in the rules.

Many different public and private groups rate hospitals--including The Joint Commission, U.S. NewsConsumer Reports and the Leapfrog Group--but they often produce wildly varying hospital quality assessments. This has raised questions about the value of such ratings, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

The Association of American Medical Colleges "strongly opposes the use of a star rating system, which may make inappropriate distinctions for hospitals whose performance is not statistically different," it said a in June 25 letter to Medicare. "A star rating system can also exaggerate minor performance differences on measures," the AAMC added.

Medicare defended its idea, saying "Visual cues can be an important way to help patients understand how their hospital measures up to others," according to KHN.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- here's the proposed rules from CMS (.pdf)
- check out the AAMC letter (.pdf)

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