Health Team

For NC, few standout hospitals in new federal rating system

Three hospitals in the state scored top marks in a new federal rating system designed to help patients access more information about how healthcare facilities measure up.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Three hospitals in the state scored top marks in a new federal rating system designed to help patients access more information about how healthcare facilities measure up.
More than three-quarters of the state's hospitals earned three or four stars out of five, an average score based on surveys of patient experiences conducted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Patients can access the full data on hospital performance through the CMS Hospital Compare tool.

Experts caution, however, that the ratings released this week give an incomplete picture of healthcare quality.

Alan Wolf, media relations manager for Rex and UNC Health Care, said patient experience can be an important part of a hospital stay. But he said the star ratings don't address other issues such as outcomes or safety records.

"Patient experience can be really subjective. It can really skew how you view that hospital," Wolf said. "But in the end, if you got excellent care and you're healed and on the mend and you're better off, I think outcome in that case is probably a better measure."

The state earned slightly fewer five-star ratings as a percentage than hospitals nationally. But a much larger proportion of North Carolina facilities earned four stars – 38 percent compared to 26 percent nationwide.

Of the 107 North Carolina hospitals rated in the CMS data, only six scored a two-star rating. None earned the lowest one-star rating, and a handful had no ratings because the response rate was too low.

Those ranked highest were:

  • North Carolina Specialty Hospital, a small sports medicine and reconstructive surgery center in Durham
  • FirstHealth Moore Regional in Pinehurst
  • Chatham Hospital, a partner of UNC Health Care in Siler City

Several well-known Triangle-area hospitals – Duke, UNC, WakeMed and Rex – earned four-star ratings.

Julie Henry, vice president of communications for the N.C. Hospital Association, said patients now have access to a variety of hospital ratings, including reports released directly from hospitals. And although the association supports transparency about hospital quality and safety, she said in an emailed statement that not every measure applies to every patient.

"When individuals are making health care decisions, they should use all available tools at their disposal including talking with friends and family and consulting with their doctors and other health care providers," Henry said.

With all the complex information available to patients, Wolf said he's interested to see how CMS implements its planned expansion of the star-rating system to include additional measures.

"Right now, it's really confusing," Wolf said. "I think as more information becomes available, they're going to make it easier to understand and decipherable to the average consumer."

He recommends patients use the ratings as a starting point.

By exploring the survey questions, patients can see which topics – whether it's doctor communication or cleanliness of the facility – brought a score up or down.

And he said it never hurts to call the hospital directly to ask questions of staff.

"Consumers who are armed with information are better off, and any efforts to improve sharing accurate information is a good thing," Wolf said. "But I think it's important not to get overwhelmed."

Explore the data

See how North Carolina hospitals measured up based on patient survey ratings released by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS obtained the star ratings below by averaging responses from several questions, such as staff communication and hospital cleanliness.

Some hospitals weren't given rankings because the survey rate was too low.

You can find additional data on individual hospitals by searching the CMS Hospital Compare website.


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