Hilton Head Hospital ranked in the bottom quarter of South Carolina’s acute care hospitals, according to newly released federal ratings.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services handed the island hospital two out of five stars for overall hospital performance. Coastal Carolina Hospital and Beaufort Memorial Hospital both earned three stars.
In the past, CMS has rated hospitals on more than 100 measures, but releasing star ratings for overall hospital performance is a first. The ratings capture more than 60 measures, such as readmission and infection rates, into one single number in an attempt to “compare hospitals in an easily understandable way,” according to a CMS press release.
2 stars Hilton Head Hospital
3 stars Coastal Carolina Hospital
3 stars Beaufort Memorial Hospital
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While Hilton Head Hospital scored no differently than the national benchmark for readmission and death rates, it scored below both state and national averages in nine of the 11 patient survey categories.
“We have implemented a number of measures designed to elevate the safety and quality of care we deliver to our patients,” said Jeremy Clark, CEO of both Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital, in a Wednesday email.
CMS debuted the star ratings because sifting through measures is difficult when hospitals excel at some and fail others. But the overall ratings aren’t that helpful to patients seeking a specific service.
For instance, a hospital’s death rate for heart attack patients might be irrelevant to a pregnant woman deciding where to give birth, so it shouldn’t be factored into consideration.
The data used to calculate the ratings is self-reported, but a South Carolina Hospital Association representative argued that the study did not take sociodemographic and geographical factors into account. Hospitals serving sicker populations typically receive lower scores.
“(CMS) is boiling (a hospital) down to five stars,” said hospital association spokesman Schipp Ames. “We think it’s kind of oversimplifying complex care.”
Clark, the Hilton Head Hospital CEO, emailed, “We share the same concern as 60 senators and 225 representatives who, in April, petitioned CMS to reexamine the Star Rating system over worries that the system may be misleading to consumers.”
CMS delayed the release of the ratings by three months after hospitals, industry stakeholders and members of Congress protested about the flawed methodology. Still, it went public with its findings to provide patients with transparency.
A week after CMS released their ratings, U.S. News & World Report posted its own annual rankings.
This organization ranks hospitals nationally and by state in 16 specialty areas of medicine.
Hilton Head Hospital was the only one of the three area hospitals to be designated as “high performing,” meaning it was not nationally ranked in a specialty but earned a score that put it in the top 10 percent of analyzed centers.
“As health care costs rise, these rankings and ratings systems are trying to drive consumers where to spend their dollars,” Ames said. “It’s hard to know which of the ratings systems to follow, because they’re all based on different methodology.”
U.S. News & World Report’s hospital rankings are more reliant on reputation and physician surveys, while the CMS ratings take a more data-driven approach, he added.
This means studies can have contradicting conclusions.
Case in point: Leapfrog, another organization that rates hospitals nationwide, doled out four A’s to Piedmont Medical Center in 2014 and 2015.
The hospital, located in Rock Hill, was the only one in the state to earn one star from CMS, the lowest possible score.
Piedmont is owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp., which also owns Hilton Head Hospital and Coastal Carolina Hospital.
An analysis by The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette found that more than a third of Tenet-owned hospitals across the nation scored less than three stars.
“We are focused on continual improvement and have several initiatives underway that will enhance the patient-centered cultures at our facilities,” a Tenet Healthcare spokesperson said in a Wednesday email.