Consumer Reports releases hospital safety ratings; some find flaws in methodology

Consumer Reports has released hospital safety ratings in its July edition, combining six key measures into one composite Rating, according to Infection Control Today. 

According to the article, the six categories that comprise the safety score are:  infections, readmissions, overuse of scanning, communication about new medications and discharge, complications, and mortality.   More than half (51 percent) of the hospitals rated by Consumer Reports received a score below 50 (on a scale of 1-100), some of these are big name hospitals.  

Key findings from the article:

  • For Overall Safety Performance, the highest scoring hospital got a safety score of just 72. 
  • For infections, 202 hospitals reported infections at rates higher than the national benchmark, and only 148 reported zero infections. 
  • For overuse of CT scanning, only 28 percent of the hospitals made the top rating in this category.
  • For Hospital Readmissions, no hospital earned the highest score; 166 hospitals received the lowest score. 
  • For Communication, no hospital earned the top score while almost 500 hospitals earned the  lowest score for communication about new medications and discharge plans.  Data was obtained from patient surveys.

According to the article, the safety score does not look comprehensively at all medical errors. The Consumer Reports Hospital Ratings are derived from several government and independent sources. Consumer Reports used the most current data available at the time of its analysis, supplementing its Ratings by interviewing patients, physicians, hospital administrators and safety experts. The Ratings include only 18 percent of U.S. hospitals because data on patient safety still isn’t reported fully and consistently nationwide. 

Several hospitals and agencies, including a statement by the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation cite flaws in the methodology, claiming Consumer Reports’ ratings used “flawed data” that “failed to represent an accurate picture of excellent patient care and significant improvements achieved by these hospitals.”

(Sources: Infection Control Today, http://www.infectioncontroltoday.com, July 8, 2012; Consumer Reports, http://consumerreports.org, July 2012; WNETThirteen, ttp://www.thirteen.org/, July 11, 2012)