Sunday, February 5, 2017

Comparing national ratings that compare Kentucky hospitals

A federal agency, magazines and a consulting group have compiled ratings that allow comparison of hospitals. Now Dr. Kevin Kavanagh of Somerset-based Health Watch USA has compiled the ratings, allowing comparison of hospitals across rating methods.

"It needs to be stated on the front end that the hospital industry is not happy with the current quality measurements," Kavanagh writes for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "However, the vast majority of these measures were derived from, or had extensive input from, the health-care industry. The industry criticizes these measures as not being accurate. Of course, the exception is when a facility scores No. 1; then there seems to be no limit to marketing the result."

Kavanagh does not include the often-advertised ratings of the Joint Commission, explaining, "This accreditation organization was forged out of the health-care industry and all too often gives a gold star of approval." He uses the "star system" of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; and ratings by the Leapfrog Group, a purchasing alliance that mainly measures safety; Consumer Reports, which primarily measures safety by readmissions, complications, communication, overuse of CT scans and infections; and U.S. News and World Report, "which uses a variety of measures, including reputation, to determine quality. This score not only reflects safety but also the ability to handle complex problems. Thus, larger hospitals and educational institutions often do better with this ranking system. The University of Louisville exemplifies this dichotomy."

Comparing the ratings with prior years, Kavanagh writes: "In the Lexington region, they overall have improved and are doing rather well. St. Joseph and St. Joseph East both showed marked improvement. Overall, these safety-ranking systems measure different aspects of care and will give different results. However, if a hospital performs in the lower tier of several systems, one needs to take notice. This appears to have happened with several facilities in Louisville, which had dismal results." He says the publicized problems of the U of L Hospital are "a testament to the accuracy and usefulness of these quality-ranking systems."

Kavanagh's comparison chart also includes data on hospital complaint investigations by CMS. It does not include most hospitals in Kentucky; CMS, for example, does not rate "critical access" hospitals, which are in rural areas. For the Kentucky Health News reports on the CMS ratings of 82 hospitals, click here; on Leapfrog Group's ranking of 52 hospitals, go here; on the U.S. News rankings, here.


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