Chas. hospitals earn high and low marks from federal government

Roper Hospital in Charleston and Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital in West Ashley both earned five out of five stars from the federal government. Hospitals across the country received scores based on several quality and safety measures.

Two Roper St. Francis hospitals earned the highest possible rating from the federal government on Wednesday.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services gave both Roper Hospital and Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital five out of five stars for overall hospital performance, based on 64 “quality measures,” including patient death and readmission rates. Only 102 hospitals across the country earned such high scores.

“We’re proud of the fact that we do well on these measures,” said Dr. Todd Shuman, vice president and chief quality officer for Roper St. Francis.

The system’s hospital in Mount Pleasant received four stars.

“It’s exciting for our three hospitals, for sure,” Shuman said.

Meanwhile, Medical University Hospital and Trident Health earned the lowest scores in the Charleston area — only two out of five stars.

East Cooper Medical Center received four.

“Our staff is tirelessly focused on delivering patient care that is safe, high-quality and compassionate,” Teresa Simmons, a spokeswoman for East Cooper, said in a prepared statement, “and we are pleased to see this commitment reflected in CMS’ quality star ratings.”

Only one South Carolina hospital, Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, received one star, the worst possible score.

The federal government has never before released star ratings for overall hospital performance. Previous star ratings only focused on patient satisfaction. In fact, these new ratings were delayed earlier this year after some hospitals protested that they offer an imperfect snapshot of quality and safety.

“We are concerned that an overall hospital star rating oversimplifies the complexity of delivering high-qualify care,” the American Hospital Association argued in January.

The federal government justified its decision to publish the ratings in a press release Wednesday, explaining that national patient and consumer advocacy groups support the effort to improve transparency.

Dr. Danielle Scheurer, health quality and safety medical director at Medical University Hospital, said MUSC supports transparency, too, but agreed with the American Hospital Association that the star ratings are flawed. She pointed out that academic medical centers, which typically treat sicker patients, unfairly received lower scores than other hospitals.

“This issue has become such a problem that 60 senators and 225 representatives asked CMS to rethink their methodology because of the inaccurate picture the star rating system paints,” Scheurer said. “Unfortunately, CMS decided to proceed.”

Other organizations, such as U.S. News & World Report and The Leapfrog Group, also publish hospital ratings. Experts often point out that such lists can paint a confusing picture for consumers.

U.S. News & World Report, for example, routinely names Medical University Hospital the best in the state. And last year, Leapfrog gave Trident Medical Center the only overall “A” for safety in the area.

Rod Whiting, a spokesman for Trident Health, advised patients to “do their research before choosing a medical provider” because different ratings use various measures to grade quality and safety.

“At Trident Health, we use all available data to review the care we offer to our community,” Whiting said in a prepared statement. “We are proud of the quality care our team delivers to our patients every day, but are always looking for ways we can improve.”

Reach Lauren Sausser at 843-937-5598.