CAPITAL REGION — Most Capital Region hospitals get a better grade than the state average but fall slightly short of the national average under ratings released by a federal oversight agency.
The rating system of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, commonly known as the CMS, rates hospitals on a scale from one to five stars. Nationwide, about 50 percent of hospitals received three or four stars in the update issued by CMS on Feb. 28. Similarly, seven of the 12 rated hospitals in the greater Capital Region received three or four stars.
Only one of the 181 rated hospitals in New York state received five stars: The Hospital For Special Surgery in Manhattan. This is much worse than the nation as a whole, where 6.4 percent of hospitals drew a five-star rating. The closest five-star facility to the Capital Region is Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
The star rating system measures mortality, safety of care, readmission rate, patient experience, effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and efficient use of medical imaging. It has proved controversial at times, with some hospitals calling its methodology an inaccurate or incomplete means of grading hospitals.
The February 2019 update actually was due in July 2018, but was delayed as CMS took time to analyze the impact of changes to the metrics and consider input from hospitals and other stakeholders in the process.
And as it released the new ratings Feb. 28, CMS posted more proposed changes to make the rating methodology more precise and consistent, and invited comment through the end of March.
The industry group Healthcare Association of New York State called the CMS star rating system confusing for patients and said it raises far more questions than it answers.
HANYS noted it is just one of many composite scoring systems that rate hospitals, each with a different methodology that produces sometimes contradictory results. It said the recent changes CMS made addressed two minor issues with the star rating system but not the fundamental problems with its approach.
“Patients should talk with their physicians and local hospital staff if they have questions about the Star Ratings or the quality improvement and patient safety initiatives at our hospital,” HANYS spokesman Darren Dopp said via email.
Several Capital Region hospitals also took exception to the rating system, though generally in more circumspect terms than HANYS.
Ellis Medicine, operator of the two star-rated Ellis Hospital in Schenectady, said:
“We are currently reviewing the ratings. It is our experience that measuring health care quality is not as simple as reviewing a survey or a data submittal. A variety of factors go into the outcomes experienced by an individual patient when hospitalized, which cannot always be taken into account in these types of rating systems.
“Hospital ratings reports are just one thing people should consider when choosing a hospital. We believe that the best measure of a hospital’s quality is a patient’s personal experience, and the experiences of their doctor, family members and friends.”
Saratoga Hospital received four stars, but CEO Angelo Calbone urged patients and prospective patients to also seek other ways to measure quality.
“We caution against making decisions based on a single score for a single time period — rating parameters shift and evolve. Instead, look for a pattern of consistently high quality and of improvement. And, remember, no rating system can tell the whole story.”
He also said: “We recognize the value of the ratings to our patients and the public at large, but the scores are not what drive us. It’s a fundamental commitment to patient care — to excellence, quality, safety, compassion, and, of course, the best possible outcomes. When it comes to ratings, what matters most is consistency — year to year and across the various ratings systems.”
CMS rated Albany Medical Center Hospital at just one star, putting it in the bottom tier with just 281 other hospitals among the 3,725 rated nationwide.
Albany Med offered the following prepared statement in response:
“As the region’s only academic medical center and level one trauma center, Albany Med provides a unique level of care for many of the region’s most critically ill and injured patients.
“Unfortunately, this measure, which has been criticized by quality experts and Congress as being inaccurate and misleading, compares very different hospitals with the same measures.
“Any meaningful comparison of hospitals should be done between hospitals that provide similar types of care to similar types of patients. We are committed to providing safe, high-quality patient care, and we encourage patients to look at the particular measures that most closely pertain to their needs and discuss the information with their caregiver.”
St. Peter’s Health Partners in Albany drew a full range of ratings for the hospitals it operates, from four stars (Albany Memorial) to three (St. Mary’s Hospital) to two (St. Peter’s Hospital) to one (Samaritan Hospital) to no rating (Sunnyview Hospital, too few data points to measure).
Dr. Alison L. Hong, chief medical office of SPHP, offered the following statement:
“St. Peter’s Health Partners supports CMS’ intent to make hospital performance publically accessible. The program was established to support consumers in making educated decisions about their health care choices and makes this information publicly available via the Hospital Compare website. The performance domains align with St. Peter’s Health Partners’ goals to deliver high-quality, patient-centered, safe, and reliable care.
“On a technical level, the website and hospital ratings are updated in alignment with federal regulations, usually once per year. Thus, the data may not reflect a hospital’s most current performance. We encourage patients and consumers to talk to their health care providers about what is best for them, as care is individualized.”
Here are the star ratings for hospitals within 50 miles of Schenectady:
- Albany Medical Center 1
- Albany Memorial 4
- Albany VA Medical Center NA
- Burdett Care Center NA
- Cobleskill Regional 4
- Ellis Hospital 2
- Glens Falls 3
- Nathan Littauer 4
- St. Mary’s Hospital 3
- St. Mary’s Healthcare 2
- St. Peter’s 2
- Samaritan 1
- Saratoga 4
- Southwestern VT Med Center 4
- Sunnyview NA
And here are some other details about the star ratings:
- Albany Medical Center, Samaritan and St. Peter’s hospitals each lost one star from the previous ratings.
- Albany Memorial, Cobleskill and St. Mary’s hospitals each gained one star from the previous ratings.
- The 12 rated hospitals within 50 miles of Schenectady are rated an average of 2.83 stars in the most recent ratings, unchanged from the previous ratings.
- All rated hospitals statewide average 2.18 stars in the most recent ratings, down from 2.22.
- All rated hospitals nationwide average 3.08 stars in the most recent ratings, down from 3.15.
- Nationwide, 293 hospitals (or 6.41%) got 5 stars; 1,086 hospitals (23.75%) got 4 stars; 1,264 (27.64%) got 3 stars; 800 hospitals (17.49%) got 2 stars; 282 (6.17%) got 1 star; 848 (18.54%) got no rating due to limited data or other reasons.