The S.C. Hospital Association along with the American Hospital Association and others are calling for a more informed hospital rating system following the release of federal rankings by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

In a February update of that ranking data, out of more than 4,000 hospitals nationwide, a little over 6 percent of hospitals received the top rating on the service's Five-Star Quality Rating System. In a statement, AHS argued that the updated rankings did not address previous concerns about how the data is collected.

"CMS’s approach to star ratings has been flawed from the outset," said Tom Nickels, executive vice president of AHS.

CMS runs the federal Medicare program at the Department of Health and Human Services. Since 2005, it has posted the ratings system to the official Medicare website with some complaints. The ranking is a measure of quality components, such as mortality, safety, unplanned hospital visits and readmission rates.

CMS collects the data through its Hospital Quality Initiative where it provides value-based incentive payments to hospitals. The incentives are tied to performance improvements and other quality measures. Some of the complaints with the ranking is that the measurements don't account for things like patient population and hospital type.

In the past, individual hospitals and supportive organizations have voiced complaints that in presenting the data CMS should separate hospitals by components, including whether the hospital is a teaching institution or a critical access hospital. 

The update of the December 2017 data did not include that separation or any major adjustments in how the data is collected. 

"Therefore, we continue to have concerns that the CMS ... ratings do not provide an accurate picture of hospital quality performance," said Schipp Ames, a spokesperson for the S.C. Hospital Association in a statement.

In the Lowcountry, though Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital and Roper Hospital received a five rating, Roper St. Francis Healthcare CEO Lorraine Lutton agrees that the rankings could do more in addressing patient population concerns in their measurements.

However, because of their previous record with quality, Lutton said the company strongly believes that any shift in the method of data collection wouldn't have an impact on their results.

"I think we have a lot of other accolades," Lutton said. "Our goal is to continue on to improve everything that we're doing."  

Other South Carolina hospitals that scored a five include two Greenville Health System Hospitals: GHS Greer Memorial Hospital and GHS Patewood Memorial Hospital.

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In Charleston, the East Cooper Medical Center received a four-star rating, as did Roper's Mount Pleasant hospital. The Medical University of South Carolina scored a two and the Trident Medical Center scored a one. 

"It’s our understanding that MUSC, like many of the nation’s major teaching hospitals, has undeservingly received low ratings again," said MUSC representative Montez Seabrook in a statement. "Assigning stars implies that hospitals have been measured on an equal basis; that is not accurate in this case." 

Trident Spokesperson Rod Whiting said, "There are many different programs that rate health care quality. This is one. There are others that show Trident to be a leader in the market," he said.

To address concerns, CMS is giving health care organizations the opportunity to voice complaints via a public commenting portal. In a public statement, they also acknowledged the validity of some of the complaints and are hoping to get more feedback for future improvements.

Stakeholders have until March 29 to post feedback to CMS. 

Reach Jerrel Floyd at 843-937-5558. Follow him on Twitter @jfloyd134.

Jerrel Floyd is an Alabama raised reporter who covers health & wellness for The Post and Courier.

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