How to Use Online Ratings for a Hospital

Planning on having surgery soon? Or cancer treatment? Just want to know where to get help in case your family has an emergency? In any case, you want to know which hospital is best and nearest to you. Many sites now rate hospitals. Knowing how they're set up and understanding what you can rely on them for -- and not -- is key to using them successfully.

What to Know About Ratings Sites

These web sites aren't perfect. But they can help you make informed choices. One thing to know is that if you look at more than one hospital rating site, you may not be comparing apples to apples.

Hospital ranking web sites may use different types of data in their rankings.

  • Patient Experience Measures are patients' opinions about the care they received.
  • Process Measures give information about how many patients get the recommended care for their condition.
  • Outcomes Measures show how well patients do after they receive treatment.
  • Patient Safety Measures show how often patients suffer from hospital-acquired infections, for example.
  • Cost Measures are the cost of care for specific services.

Ranking sites may also use different sources of data. In general, the government sources, such as CDC and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), are the most rigorous and reliable sources, and information from users on a web site is the least reliable.

Be sure to look at rankings for the procedure or condition you need care for along with the hospital's overall quality. Don't just look at patient experience ratings. These won't tell you the hospital's rating for safe and effective treatment.

Use the information to help you decide. But don't rely on it entirely. Talk with your doctors about your treatment plan and the results you can expect. Also find out which hospitals are covered by your insurance plan , or you may end up paying a lot more for your care. If you have questions, ask your health care providers. They can explain what the data mean.

Medicare.gov: Hospital Compare

What you can find on Medicare.gov:

  • A list of Medicare-certified hospitals in your area based on your city, state, or ZIP code
  • The hospital on a map and the distance from your home
  • The type of hospital it is
  • Whether it has emergency services

Continued

Details you can see:

  • Comparison of up to three hospitals at a time
  • Patient survey results about how well hospital staff communicate
  • How a hospital compares to state and national results for timely and effective care, use of medical imaging (mammograms, MRIs, etc.), and number of readmissions, complications, and deaths
  • Average amount spent on each Medicare patient at each hospital compared with national averages, as well as payment for specific conditions such as heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia
  • Value-of-care measures, which allow users to look at payment measures together with qualify-of-care measures
  • Average number of Medicare patients who use specific types of care

Rating format : Results for each hospital are compared to state and national benchmarks. They are listed as percentages or as bar graphs.

What the rating is based on: Ratings are based on data from government sources such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Joint Commission, and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys, administered by CMS.

WhyNottheBest.org

What you can find: You can search by name, or search and compare hospitals based on:

  • Region
  • Health system
  • Size
  • Ownership
  • Type

Details you can see: State or national averages and results for overall recommended care, quality care, patient experience, emergency care, immunization rates, and several others.

When you click on a category, you can also get information on:

  • Selected hospitals and benchmarks
  • Trend data
  • Top performers
  • Map view

Rating format: You can look up and create reports that compare hospitals, hospital groups, or regions. You can also view featured reports, such as "Patient Experiences: State by State Variation."

What the rating is based on: Ratings are based on data from government sources such as CMS, the Institute of Medicine, The Joint Commission, HCAHPS surveys, and other trusted sources.

CareChex.com

What you can find: You'll find a score for overall quality as well as for a certain types of care, such as cancer care or joint replacement.

Details you can see: How the hospitals near your ZIP code rank for a particular type of care, but not how that rank was specifically determined or patient reviews. You can also see the top hospitals in the U.S. for specific types of care.

Continued

Rating format: The best hospitals can earn a √++. The lowest get a √--. Half of all hospitals fall in the middle, earning a √.

What the rating is based on:

  • Process measures: How the hospital's care compares to the standard recommended guidelines for treatment, using data collected by the Hospital Quality Alliance, a private-public collaboration
  • Outcome measures: How well patients do, using information collected by Medicare
  • Patient experience measures: Patient satisfaction using public information, collected primarily by Medicare

HealthGrades.com

What you can find: A list of hospitals near the town or city you enter. You can sort by:

  • Location
  • Type of facility
  • Healthgrades Awards
  • Healthgrades Ratings for different procedures and conditions

Details you can see:

  • Directions and maps
  • How a hospital compares to national averages based on patient experience rankings
  • How well a hospital rates for patient safety for 14 potentially serious preventable complications
  • How well patients do at different points of a hospital stay for a specific condition, called quality of care ratings. For instance, there are ratings for care while a patient is in the hospital, 30 days after leaving the hospital, and 180 days after leaving the hospital.

Rating format: Hospitals are rated in three categories and each category is rated in a different way:

  • Patient Safety measures: Rated as worse than average, average, better than average
  • Outcome measures or Clinical Quality: Rated with 1 star = worse than expected, 3 stars = as expected, 5 stars = better than expected
  • Patient Experience measures: Satisfaction scores showing how hospitals rate compared to the national average

What the rating is based on:

  • Patient safety measures as defined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
  • Outcome measures or clinical quality rating: Outcomes for 31 common procedures and conditions using Medicare discharge data
  • Patient experience measures: From Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) surveys, administered by CMS

LeapFrogGroup.org

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on September 13, 2016

Sources

SOURCES:

The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, April 2011: "Trends in the Use of Hospital and Provider Quality Ratings."

CareChex, division of Comparion: "Hospital Quality Scoring and Rating Methods."

HealthGrades: "HealthGrades Research Reports, Top Hospitals, and Methodologies."

Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, May 12, 2011: "The Social Life of Health Information, 2011."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthcare.gov blog: "Affordable Care Act at 3: Paying for Quality Saves Health Care Dollars."

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthcare.gov: "The Health Care Law & You."

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "Five Things to Keep in Mind When Using Information on the Quality of Local Doctors or Hospitals."

Medicare.gov: Hospital Compare."

LeapFrogGroup.org.

WhyNottheBest.org.

© 2016 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pagination