Understanding the Latest Quality Ratings

Our community received some good news this month. Three GHS hospitals received an “A” grade from The Leapfrog Group. Additionally, in August, GHS’ Patewood Memorial Hospital was ranked #19 in the nation for orthopaedics by U.S. News and World Report and all six of GHS’ acute care hospitals improved their Overall Hospital Quality Star Rating with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

So, why is this good news? What are you, the consumer, supposed to do with this information? And why are there so many ratings agencies reporting different results? If you find yourself asking these questions, you’re not alone. These are common but important questions, and our intent here is to provide some answers.

Why is this good news? These positive ratings are evidence that high quality health care is available here in the Upstate.

What are you, the consumer, supposed to do with this information? The CMS Star Ratings, for example, are intended to give consumers the information they need to do an apples-to-apples (or in this case, hospital-to-hospital) comparison before deciding where to seek care. The ratings focus on a hospital’s performance in seven areas: mortality, readmission, patient safety, patient experience, effective care, timely care and efficiency. Hospitals are rated using a one to five star scale with five stars being the best performance and three stars being the national average.

We’re proud to say that GHS’ six acute care hospitals were all at or above the national average in the CMS Star Rating for 2016. Greer Memorial and Patewood Memorial hospitals both received five stars. Greenville Memorial, Hillcrest Memorial and Laurens County Memorial hospitals all received four stars, and Oconee Memorial received three stars. This is quite an achievement given the number of changes happening across the healthcare industry right now.

Like the CMS Star Ratings, The Leapfrog Group’s focus is on helping consumers compare hospital performance related to patient safety. GHS’ Greenville Memorial, Greer Memorial and Hillcrest Memorial Hospital all received an “A” grade for fall 2016. Greer Memorial was named a “straight A” hospital, having earned an “A” grade consecutively over time.

Why are there so many ratings agencies reporting different results? Assessing quality in health care is complex. Each rating agency uses its own methodology and available data to rate facilities. For example, the CMS Star Ratings are based mainly on CMS quality data, whereas U.S. News and World Report rankings are influenced by reputation and physician surveys. In short, different data methodologies yield different results, which is why you may see a hospital score well in one rating and not as well in another. Additionally, teaching and safety-net hospitals, like Greenville Memorial, are often at a disadvantage because they treat a greater number of patients with chronic and complex conditions than do small, rural hospitals. So, while ratings do not tell the whole picture, their intentions are generally good. We recommend discussing this information with your physician or healthcare provider to determine which hospital best meets your healthcare needs.

What does this mean for GHS? At GHS, our positive ratings are a testament to the skill level and commitment of our employees. An abundance of teamwork and a tireless pursuit to fulfill our mission led us to this point, and it will propel us to continue this good work long into the future.

Patients and families are the focus of everything we do at GHS, and we will use these ratings to further improve care and enhance the patient experience.

Catherine Chang, MD, is chief medical officer for Greenville Health System.

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