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Forget the CMS Star Ratings Debate & Focus on Quality Care

Posted by Debra Zalvan on Sep 12, 2019 7:00:00 AM
Debra Zalvan
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The Star Ratings Debate

The ongoing and often heated debate about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) star rating system for hospitals reached new levels in August when CMS announced that it will publish updated star ratings in early 2020, even though long-awaited updates to star ratings methodology won’t be in place until early 2021.

In comments posted on the American Hospital Association (AHA) website, Ashley Thompson, AHA senior vice president for public policy analysis and development,responded to the developments by stating, “The AHA is disappointed that CMS intends to continue using a hospital star ratings approach plagued by longstanding concerns about its accuracy and meaningfulness.”

In the trenches, however, healthcare executives and department heads generally have little time for policy debates. If this describes you, reality exists within the current framework—not within a hypothetical future framework that may or may not be ready for use more than a year down the road. So, what are you doing to engage patients, provide the best possible care, and control costs? After all, isn’t that where your current opportunities exist to improve patient outcomes, patient experience, and your star ratings?

Hospital Compare & Patient Engagement

Take, for example, the Hospital Compare overall hospital rating. According to the Medicare.gov website, this rating uses “a statistical model known as a latent variable model. Seven different latent variable models are used to calculate scores for 7 groups of measures.”

These variables include:


  1. Safety of Care
  2. Readmission
  3. Patient Experience
  4. Effectiveness of Care
  5. Timeliness of Care
  6. Efficient Use of Medical Imaging

In our experience, readmission, patient experience and effectiveness of care are all directly impacted by patient engagement and patient activation. This is backed up by two studies, both of which provide great models for developing a patient activation strategy at your hospital.

Both studies demonstrate that a digital strategy for engaging and activating patients is a powerful way to impact readmissions, the patient experience and the effectiveness of care—three of the seven groups of measures in the latent variable model. By focusing on quality care, you can do your part to improve your hospital’s star ratings while the policy debates rage on.

If you want to learn more about the SmarteXp® platform and the evidence-based, fully customizable content that drove the results in both of these studies, fill out the form below and learn how patient engagement can help your organization.

Topics: Improving Patient Outcomes, Patient Experience, patient activation, CMS, star ratings, latent variable model