Area Hospital Scores Mixed On New Medicare Rating System

Jul 28, 2016

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released its first ratings of the nation's hospitals.
Credit https://data.medicare.gov/Hospital-Compare/Hospital-General-Information/xubh-q36u / Hospital Ratings, CMS

A majority of Florida’s hospitals received low marks under the federal government’s new ratings system. The data was released earlier this week. But  some hospitals are starting to make peace with the new system.

The new scorecards rank hospitals on a one to five star scale, with five being the highest. The measures consider data such as death and infection rates and patient reviews. Only two Florida hospitals-- Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville and Sarasota Memorial—received five starts. There were a lot more hospitals that were rated at or above a strong place to be, considering 43-percent of the state’s clinics were rated below that.

“Let me explain what this star system is. Medicare developed this hospital compare star system as a tool for consumers to help consumers sort through which hospital they might want to go to for a particular condition based on our quality of care outcomes," says Tallahassee Memorial Hospital Hospital Vice President Barbara Alford.

TMH was rated three stars, around the middle of the pack. Alford says her Tallahassee team worked hard to get those stars:

"We put processes in place so that patients that come here without hospital acquired infections don’t get hospital acquired infections," she said. "So we worked very hard every day to make sure that we are protecting the safety of patients that come to the hospital and providing the highest quality of care.” 

Doctor’s Memorial Hospital in Perry also received three stars. But some healthcare groups have complained about the new rating system. Health News Florida reports the American Hospital Association says the system unfairly penalizes teaching hospitals and those serving a high number of poor patients.

Tallahassee’s Capital Regional Medical Center was given two stars. It’s had to pay Medicare fines in the past for high readmission rates.  Capital Regional spokeswoman Rachel Stiles says the hospital is trying to lower the number of people readmitted it its hospital, and improve its patient satisfaction scores. Capital Regional Medical did scored better than the national average in the categories of efficiency and safety. Still, while hospitals may grumble about the rating system, TMH’s Alford says, they're stuck with it.

“We don’t have a choice. It’s something that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid say all hospitals will participate in if you receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, and we do, and we’re going to participate. You can always say the data is skewed to one advantage or another advantage, but it is what it is.”

The big Bend is home to several smaller hospitals. They include the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital which has been in the news lately for the death of a woman who was forcibly discharged from the facility and later died. The hospital did not receive a rating. Nor did Apalachicola’s George Weems Memorial Center or Madison County Memorial. All are classified as critical access facilities and located in rural areas.