The CMS on Wednesday launched two new consumer-oriented websites that publish information about the quality of inpatient rehabilitation facilities and long-term care hospitals, lengthening its list of Compare websites amid a broader push in healthcare to increase transparency about quality and engage patients in their care.
The CMS also said it would update the overall quality star ratings on its Hospital Compare website, by refreshing data derived from patient feedback and from timely and effective care measures. In those star ratings, hospitals are assigned one through five stars, with five representing the highest quality. The CMS will also incorporate five new oncology measures into the Cancer Hospital Reporting Program and add readmissions after coronary artery bypass graft surgery to the Readmissions Reduction Program.
“At the CMS, one of our top priorities is to help individuals make informed healthcare decisions for themselves or their loved ones based on objective measures of quality,” Dr. Patrick Conway, acting principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer for the CMS, and Dr. Kate Goodrich, the director of CMS' Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. Using the CMS' Compare websites, “individuals can compare the quality of health care providers, facilities, and health plans, highlighting that people have a choice in their care,” they added.
Among healthcare stakeholders and experts, the Compare websites have proved controversial, especially Hospital Compare. Transparency advocates have praised the CMS' ongoing efforts to publish data and inform consumers, but industry groups have pushed back by questioning the accuracy and precision of these ratings and the methodology behind them.
“I think it's exciting that the CMS is updating the Hospital Compare website, and I appreciate that they are becoming even more current in the data they're using to report,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group, said of Wednesday's updates. “We think consumers can really understand it and use it.”
The new websites on long-term care and inpatient rehabilitation facilities constitute “a breakthrough,” Binder added. “Certainly as the population ages and so many of us worry about our parents and grandparents, this is really helpful.”
In the past, industry groups have vigorously opposed the CMS' initiatives to publish quality data and have gotten Congress on their side. In July, when the agency published its star ratings for overall hospital quality, the American Hospital Association voiced concerns that "the current ratings scheme unfairly penalizes teaching hospitals and those serving higher numbers of the poor."
A study published in JAMA in November found that star ratings for hospitals were affected by their locations and surrounding socio-economic conditions.
The new Compare websites for long-term care hospitals and inpatient rehabilitation facilities will report quality measures: the percentage of residents or patients with new or worsened pressure ulcers, and unplanned readmissions, for any reason, within 30 days after discharge.