AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Feds delay rollout of hospital star ratings

Federal health officials announced Wednesday that they are delaying the rollout of a star-rating system for the nation's hospitals.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had planned to publish an overall star rating this week for every hospital in the nation. The star ratings will combine quality measurements to give consumers a quick summary of the stats. CMS already uses an overall star-rating system for nursing homes.

The federal agency said Wednesday that concerns among hospitals and others about some of its calculations prompted it to delay the project, so that it can continue to work with stakeholders before publishing. Earlier this month, 60 U.S. Senators urged federal health officials to delay publishing the ratings, saying they may be "misleading" for consumers.

While consumers will have to wait longer for the ratings, hospital groups praised the decision to delay.

"While we agree that the public reporting of provider quality data is important, we are concerned that CMS’s new overall hospital star rating oversimplifies the complexity of delivering high-quality care," Georgia Hospital Association President and CEO Earl Rogers said in a statement released Wednesday. "Rating overall hospital care is far more complex than a simple star rating."

The Georgia Hospital Association said it was thankful that Georgia's U.S. Senators and Representatives supported the delay.

America’s Essential Hospitals, a national organization, also praised the decision to delay the release. Grady Memorial Hospital is one of many large public hospitals represented by the group.

"Essential hospitals are committed to quality improvement and transparency, and support empowering patients and families with useful and relevant information," said Dr. Bruce Siegel, president and CEO of America’s Essential Hospitals, in a statement on Wednesday. "But questions remain about the data behind the star ratings and about the value of the ratings to consumers. The ratings exist partially in a black box, incorporate measures that miss clinically relevant data, and fail to adjust for patient circumstances that influence health and health care outcomes—circumstances outside a hospital’s control."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution publishes data on hospital quality at its own website: AJC Hospital Checkup

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About the Author

Carrie Teegardin is on the investigative team. She is a graduate of Duke University and has won numerous national journalism awards.