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New Ratings Evaluate Hospitals’ Delivery of ‘Common Care’

U.S. News & World Report devises yet another form of quality ranking

Amid an already crowded field of hospital rankings, U.S. News & World Report has added a new form of evaluation that rates hospitals based on how well they handle five common medical conditions and procedures.

The Best Hospitals for Common Care ratings use 25 quality measures derived from Medicare data to rank approximately 4,000 hospitals in regard to how they perform heart bypass, hip replacement, and knee replacement surgeries as well as treat congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to U.S. News.

For each procedure or condition, hospitals received ratings of either high-performing, average, or below average.

“The good news for patients is that the majority of hospitals performed average or better” on these common procedures, Ben Harder, chief of health analysis for U.S. News, said in an announcement. Only 10% of hospitals that received ratings in each category were high- performing, and another 10% were below average.

The ratings exclude, however, more than 1,700 hospitals that perform too few of the common procedures. Those exclusions may be a cause for concern, as hospitals that don't commonly perform certain procedures produce poorer outcomes for these surgeries, according to a recent U.S. News analysis, a finding that spurred some teaching hospitals to restrict low-volume surgeries.

The latest hospital rankings also take into account patients’ health conditions, age, sex, and socioeconomic status. Hospitals have complained that the latter factor can unfairly skew quality metrics, such as readmissions.

Further, in a frequently-asked-questions document, U.S. News says it uses “a broader array of quality indicators” to determine its new common-care rankings compared with other popular hospital-evaluation systems, including Leapfrog, Healthgrades, Consumer Reports, the Joint Commission, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s Hospital Compare websites.

U.S. News identified numerous hospitals that needed to improve. Out of more than 2,000 medical centers evaluated in both hip replacement and knee replacement, for example, 109 rated below average in both operations. And while nearly 90% of hospitals rated in heart bypass surgery were average or better, 116 medical centers were below average. Twenty-one were in Florida and 17 in Texas. No other state had more than eight underperforming cardiac surgery programs.

Most below-average hospitals had unaccountably high rates of patient deaths or infections, or potentially preventable complications that landed patients back in a hospital bed within a month.

Hospital ratings have come under fire recently when a study noted that their findings often sharply conflict with one another, FierceHealthcare has reported.

Sources: FierceHealthcare; May 20, 2015; and U.S. News & World Report; May 20, 2015.


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