Editorial: More measures add value to hospital ratings

If your local hospital had a high rate of leaving foreign objects in patients’ bodies after surgery, would you want to know? How about causing air bubbles in veins or giving people the wrong type of blood?

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known as CMS, has removed eight of these so-called hospital-acquired conditions from its website, according to USA Today. CMS removed them from public access last summer, although researchers could still get the information until earlier this month.

Although it initially denied the removal, according to the newspaper, CMS later said the measures were deleted in favor of different ones that it considers more relevant to consumers, such as infection rates for MRSA and sepsis after surgery.

Ironically, the removed measures can be used to penalize hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements, even while not considered relevant for patients trying to compare hospitals, the newspaper said.

The site is easily accessed by Googling “hospital compare” or going to www.medicare.gov/hospital compare/search.html. Consumers can use ZIP codes or city names to identify and compare up to three hospitals.

It’s an interesting and potentially useful tool. You can discover that St. Charles Bend has a better-than-average rating on unplanned readmission for heart-failure patients, while St. Charles Redmond rates are average. On several infection measures, both Bend and Redmond are average, while the state of Oregon is better than average.

On patient-satisfaction questions, Bend and Redmond track close to state and national averages, although Bend fell lower on room cleanliness and nighttime quiet.

The website provides a user-friendly way to learn more about hospitals, but it loses value if critical measures are removed. CMS told USA Today the removed items are rare events that should never happen in hospitals, and that it wants to focus on more common events that are more important for patients.

We disagree. It’s all the more important for patients to know if their hospital has a higher-than-average occurrence of rare, damaging events. CMS should add more measures, not take them away.