Five-star ratings are handy when you’re Yelping for a sports bar, a Thai food joint or a nearby manicurist. But one-size-fits-all feedback gets a little more complicated when it comes to ranking health care services, particularly hospitals.
Earlier this month, the federal government started doing pretty much just that.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has been measuring patients’ opinions of hospital care since 2006, released a five-star rating system to gauge patients’ experiences. But of the nearly 3,500 hospitals evaluated nationwide, only 251 got the top five-star score, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the data. Out of the 120 hospitals in Los Angeles County, fewer than 90 were rated and none received five stars. In fact, perennial luminaries Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center scored only three.
Before you start scratching your head, consider the details.
These summary star ratings combine all aspects of patient experience and are derived from a single survey question. Consumers can also drill down and examine ratings tied to more specific aspects of care on the federal government’s Hospital Compare site.
There are a plethora of hospital quality ratings and report cards available to the public these days, each one using different metrics and methodologies, explained Jan Emerson-Shea, a spokeswoman for the California Hospital Association. She added that a facility will often rank high on one scorecard and low on another because of different methodologies.
“While the goal of all of these ratings/report cards may be to try to help consumers make informed decisions, CHA has concerns about using simplified approaches (such as star ratings) to measure the complexity of health care that is provided by hospitals,” Emerson-Shea wrote in an email. She added that this information should be used as a starting point.
Dr. Neil Romanoff, vice president for medical affairs and chief patient safety officer at Cedars, praised efforts to be transparent, but voiced concern about oversimplifying results.
“We think the numbers in Hospital Compare are more telling than the stars,” Romanoff wrote in an email, referring to the more detailed breakdowns. He pointed to Cedars’ high marks on specific questions, such as a patient’s willingness to recommend the hospital.
Other institutions highlighted progress made after the data had been collected.
“One of the areas where our metrics were low was the area around (whether) their room was ‘always’ quiet at night,” Long Beach Memorial Medical Center spokeswoman Richele Steele wrote in an email. “Since the statistics were collected, Long Beach Memorial made substantial improvements in this area.”
SoCalBio Goes to D.C.
When Ramzi Nasr, chief operating officer of Pasadena medical device company Deton Corp. recently met with Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, on Capitol Hill to discuss research funding, he found himself preaching to the choir. That’s because Capps used to be a nurse.
“She knew exactly what I was talking about,” Nasr said.
He was making the rounds as a representative of the Southern California Biomedical Council during the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s annual legislative fly-in.
Nasr’s startup is working on a device that collects bacteria from a patient’s cough to diagnose lung infections. The firm has been operating with the help of $750,000 in grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and could benefit from the $1 billion bump the NIH has requested be added to its $30.3 billion budget.
“It goes directly to funding and trickles down very proportionately to small companies like ours,” Nasr said.
He also used his time with Capps and others to explain how Deton would benefit from the passage of a bill being considered in the House that would protect patent holders while limiting abusive infringement lawsuits.
“I was pleasantly surprised how well informed (they) were,” Nasr said of his meetings with Capps and staff members from the offices of Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Anaheim, and Rep. Norma Torres, D-Pomona.
“Lobbying is not always to change somebody’s mind: It’s to help them confirm or understand why they’re making that decision,” he said.
HomeHero Inc., a digital platform connecting caregivers for seniors with families, is planning to expand over the next couple of months.
The Santa Monica startup has served the L.A. area since launching in 2013 and will add San Diego by the end of this month and San Francisco by the end of June.
“San Diego is close, faces a lot of the same regulatory issues (as Los Angeles) because it’s in California and has a high density of seniors,” said co-founder Mike Townsend.
Staff reporter Marni Usheroff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (323) 549-5225, ext. 229.