Which hospitals are best or worst? Hard to tell

Consumers using national hospital rating systems to judge the quality of particular hospitals may have a tough time doing so because those ratings often disagree, according to a new study that included two authors from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study, in the March 2015 issue of Health Affairs, compared ratings from four well-known rating systems between mid-2012 and mid-2013. Two were from publications, U.S. News & World Report and Consumer Reports; another was from Denver-based company Healthgrades; and a fourth was from the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit.

No hospital was rated as a high performer by all four rating systems. Only 10% of the 844 hospitals rated as a high performer by one rating system were rated as a high performer by any of the other rating systems. And, in some cases, a hospital dubbed a high performer by one system got a ‘low performer’ rating from another.

Spokesmen from some of the rating groups said in a March 2, 2015 New York Times article that their groups serve different purposes, and that consumers can figure that out. But the study authors—including Ashish Jha, K.T. Li Professor of International Health, and Sara Singer, associate professor of health care management and policy—said that “the complexity and opacity of the ratings is likely to cause confusion instead of driving patients and purchasers to higher-quality, safer care.”

Read the New York Times article: Hospital Rating Systems Differ on Best and Worst