Choosing a hospital? Look to the stars

How well does your local hospital perform in terms of patient care and safety? Now it’s easy to find out.

One to Five Stars. Medicare gathers hospital data regularly. It posts the information on its Hospital Compare website. To make comparisons simple, Medicare created a star rating system. Hospital Compare combines information about as many as 64 quality measures. Five stars is truly top notch. In July 2016, fewer than 3% of hospitals had achieved this rating. Most hospitals (39%) got three stars.

The star rating looks at statistics that reflect things such as

  • quality: How many patients are readmitted within a month of being discharged. High readmission rates could indicate that patients are being sent home before they are fully healed. It could mean patients have not received the most up-to-date or recommended treatments. Or it could mean that patients have been released to a home situation that is not set up to handle the level of care that is needed.
  • timeliness: How quickly a recommended treatment is offered. For instance, how long was someone in the ER for a heart attack before they received an aspirin?
  • safety: This measures things such as infection rates after a surgery. Or the rate of general infections, such as MRSA. A high or low infection rate can indicate how carefully a hospital follows procedures to reduce the spread of disease.
  • patient experience: This is based on comments from patients after they are sent home.

The Hospital Safety Score

Consumers can view the safety scores of nearly 2,500 hospitals across the country.

This report card-like Hospital Safety Score is assembled by the Leap Frog Group, a national consortium of large employers. It looks at issues such as

  • infection rates after surgery;
  • enforcement of hand-washing policy for staff;
  • use of technology to reduce errors.

Bottom line: If your loved one’s health coverage allows for a choice, research the options. Not all hospitals are alike!