In an effort to make evaluating hospitals more like comparing refrigerator models and restaurants, the federal government has awarded its first star ratings to hospitals based on patients’ appraisals.
Like many of the nation’s leading hospitals, most Charlotte-area hospitals received middling ratings. By comparison, some obscure hospitals and others that specialized in lucrative surgeries frequently received the most stars.
Only three North Carolina hospitals got top 5-star ratings: North Carolina Specialty Hospital in Durham, Chatham Hospital in Siler City and FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst.
Charlotte’s Carolinas Medical Center and eight others owned by Carolinas HealthCare System received 4 stars. Three Novant Health hospitals in Mecklenburg County received 3 stars, as did CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia and Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville.
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Evaluating hospitals is becoming increasingly important as more insurance plans offer patients limited choices. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has been publishing scores from patient satisfaction surveys on its website since 2008. The agency already uses stars to rate nursing homes, dialysis centers and private Medicare Advantage insurance plans.
While Medicare publishes more than 100 quality measures about hospitals on its Hospital Compare website (www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare), many are hard to decipher, and there is little evidence consumers use the site very much. Officials say they hope the star ratings will be easier for consumers to use.
Many in the hospital industry fear Medicare’s 5-star ratings, posted Thursday, may place too much weight on patient reviews, which are just one measurement of hospital quality. Medicare also reports the results of hospital care, such as how many patients died or got infections during their stay, but those are not yet assigned stars.
Dr. Jim Hunter, chief medical officer for Carolinas HealthCare, said he was pleased with the system’s multiple 4-star ratings. “This doesn’t give the whole picture of quality ... (but) it does reflect that we’ve been focusing on patient perception of our care for a long period of time.”
As for the many rating systems becoming available, Hunter said, “The jury’s still out on whether these are clarifying or confusing. They certainly bring more information into the public domain, which we welcome.”
At Novant Health, Sean Keyser, vice president for patient experience, said he’s disappointed by the system’s 3-star ratings. “Our objective is to perform much higher than that. We’re performing at an average level right now. This is not OK with us.”
Keyser said Novant employees are focusing on “relationship aspects of our care” so that patient perception matches the quality provided. “Our quality and safety is extraordinary. … And we are always looking to improve the satisfaction of our patients.”
Charlotte-area hospital rankings
4-stars: Carolinas Medical Center and CMC-Randolph (Behavior Health), CMC-Pineville, CMC-University, CMC-NorthEast in Concord, CMC-Union in Monroe, CMC-Lincoln in Lincolnton, Cleveland Regional Medical Center in Shelby, Kings Mountain Hospital, and Frye Regional Medical Center and Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory.
3-stars: Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, Novant Health Huntersville Medical Center, Novant Health Matthews Medical Center, CaroMont Regional Medical Center in Gastonia, Stanly Regional Medical Center in Albemarle, Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville, and Iredell Memorial Hospital and Davis Regional Medical Center in Statesville. In South Carolina, Chester Regional Medical Center and Springs Memorial Hospital in Lancaster.
2-stars: Novant Health Rowan Medical Center in Salisbury, Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill.