Report: Rating Hospitals Is Confusing And All Over The Place

Photo by Maria Danalakis

PBS just published an article that delves into the complicated and confusing world of hospital grading, a system that is baffling people as to how effective and reliable their hospital choices are.

Hospitals are graded by a wide range of rating organizations, all using different metrics to sort through what they consider quality care:

The calculations that go into these ratings are complex. Most hospital assessments synthesize dozens of pieces of data Medicare publishes on its Hospital Compare website, including death rates and the results of patient satisfaction surveys. They also examine other sources and use private surveys to create user-friendly lists or grades, which they display on their websites.
The Joint Commission looks at how frequently patients received recommended treatments, such as flu shots for those with pneumonia. Consumer Reports examines the numbers of patients who die or are readmitted, infection rates and Medicare patient surveys of their experiences. Leapfrog looks at data from its surveys of hospitals, the consistency with which hospitals followed safe surgical practices and frequencies of infections and some types of patient harm. Healthgrades analyzes detailed Medicare records to find death and complication rates for 27 procedures and conditions.

I decided to take a quick look at Coney Island Hospital’s scores and found that not only was I getting different answers, but different kinds of answers depending on which grading service I used.

Leapfrog gives Coney Island Hospital a C letter grade score. When you click the link that explains how they arrived at that score, they don’t address the specific hospital in question. Instead, they give you a complicated breakdown of their scoring system in general.

Healthgrades doesn’t give a final easy to read to ranking like Leapfrog, but rather parses its rating over several various procedures. For example, according to Healthgrades, Coney Island Hospital’s treatment of collapsed lungs is ranked above average while their treatment of blood clots following surgeries are ranked below average. It lends to itself to a level of specificity that promotes more vagueness than clarity.

Overall, the article presents a fascinating look at how too much information might be limiting people in their effort to gain a clear picture of the best health care options available to them, and is well worth checking out.

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