by John W. Mitchell , Senior Correspondent

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is ratcheting up accountability for hospitals with the rollout of a consumer overall 5- star single rating system in April.

CMS spokesperson Alper Ozinal told DOTmed News there is good reason to emphasize hospital scores through a single star rating in addition to category-by-category ratings.

“HCAHPS scores have been found to be positively related to other quality indicators, including process of care, outcomes, safety and readmissions.” He added that HCAHPS scores have been improving in hospitals since introduced in 2006.

“This is a big change,” said Katie Owens, Vice President of HealthStream Engagement Institute, a company that both surveys nearly 1.7 million patients a year about their hospital experience and coaches hospitals on how to improve scores by creating patient-centered service. “With consumers now so active on social media the use of 5 star ratings on such sites as Yelp, Trip Advisor and Consumer Report, it seems CMS is looking to follow suit to simplify things in the eyes of the consumer,” she told DOTmed News.

The American Hospital Association (AHA), which represents nearly 5,000 hospitals and health care systems, has concerns about this new single star rating system, officially titled HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) Star Ratings.

“The current hospital compare site [which was developed with help from American hospitals] was not designed for single star system rating from multiple scores for patient experience,” Akin Demehin, Senior Associate Director for Policy at the AHA explained to DOTmed News.

“Hospitals are committed to sharing quality data but we’re concerned the single star rating (for patient satisfaction) will not be particularly useful to consumers in making health care decisions. We think it might be more understandable for single star ratings planned in the future for clinical outcomes, such as heart attack.”

Owens, with HealthStream, noted that improving patient satisfaction requires a systemic effort to create a patient-centered culture.

“The Star System does not change anything as far as our work with hospitals. We work to place patients at the center of health care through a hospital leadership commitment to cultural change,” she said.

She noted the biggest barriers to improving hospital ratings are: lack of accountability; lack of skills to consistently deliver patient-centered staff behavior; and lack of buy-in from staff and physicians.

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http://www.dotmed.com/news/story/25325/