Most Finger Lakes area hospitals fared worse than previously in a controversial federal report card

A recently updated hospital report card looks dismal for most hospitals statewide — with those in the Rochester/Finger Lakes area no exception. The majority of hospitals in the region dropped in rating from the last report in 2017, with none attaining higher than three out of a possible five stars.

The Hospital Compare from Medicare.gov summarizes a variety of measures across seven areas of quality into a single star rating for each hospital. Measures cover mortality; safety of care; readmission; patient experience; effectiveness of care; timeliness of care; and efficient use of medical imaging. The aim is to help improve hospitals’ quality of care through easy to understand data on hospital performance, according to Medicare.gov, as well as provide quality information from patient perspectives.

Most hospitals in the Finger Lakes region received two stars. Those most highly rated in the region, at three stars, included Highland Hospital in Rochester and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital of Yates in Penn Yan. Geneva General Hospital received one star.

Nationwide, the most common rating was three stars — in New York state, one or two stars was most common. Of 151 hospitals graded statewide, 48 hospitals got a one-star grade. The only hospital to attain a five-star rating was Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

The rating system is controversial. Hospitals and supporting organizations have long criticized the methods used and argue the results don’t take into account factors out of a hospital’s control — like population of uninsured and poor patients, community support and so forth.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has published the hospital ratings since 2005. After releasing the newest ratings in February for the first time in 15 months, the agency opened a public comment period for feedback as it considers changing its approach.

Still, CMS officials say they stand by the current star ratings as a helpful tool for consumers.

“At Thompson Hospital, we are always in favor of transparency when it comes to the myriad of information available to patients,” said UR Medicine Thompson Health President/CEO Michael F. Stapleton Jr., in an email response to the report card. “In the spirit of empowering local healthcare consumers with information, however, we feel strongly that data should be presented within the proper context so people can consider for themselves how truly meaningful it may be.”

In a similar vein, Lara Turbide, vice president, community services for Finger Lakes Health, said the health system encourages consumers to be informed, adding it’s important “to look at the whole picture” and “ask questions behind the data.” Geneva General and Soldiers and Sailors Memorial hospitals are under Finger Lakes Health system. From the hospital standpoint, Turbide said ratings offer “a good opportunity to pause” and review how the hospitals are doing. “We know there is room to improve,” she said.

Turbide talked about the factors out of a hospital’s control, such as the population and composition of the community the hospital serves. For example, family support after a person leaves the hospital can make a big difference in whether that person needs to be readmitted. Patients also tend to react differently about their hospital experience based on factors such as whether they know staff and are already familiar with that hospital. Though Geneva General received one star in the latest CMS rating, and Soldiers and Sailors received three stars, both hospitals use the same policies and procedures, as well as administrative and nursing leadership teams, she said.

Rochester Regional Health oversees Clifton Springs Hospital & Clinic, which received two stars. Responding to the rating, Veronica R. Chiesi Brown, public information officer/advisor, stated in an email: “Rochester Regional Health continues to lead the way in the delivery of high quality, safe patient care to all we serve. The Clifton Springs Medical Village, set to open in 2020, will continue to advance the level of care in the region.” The $32 million outpatient care center in Clifton Springs is scheduled to open in early 2020.

At Thompson Hospital, Stapleton stated: “Our hospital undergoes rigorous reviews on a regular basis, both for routine accreditation purposes and for the purposes of achieving prestigious distinctions within particular areas of care.” He listed honors and achievements including for nursing excellence and in various areas of treatment and specialities.

“Our hospital’s CMS rating dropped due to re-admissions and timeliness of care in our Emergency Department,” Stapleton said. “These are both areas we are addressing on a daily basis.”

“With regard to the E.D., an increased inpatient volume has at times meant a backlog of E.D. patients waiting for an inpatient bed. This is one of the reasons behind our current expansion of our intensive care unit, which is due to open early next year. We are confident we are providing high-quality patient care and we also know we are continuously striving to do even better. As always, we encourage patients to talk with their own trusted physicians if they have questions about quality improvement or patient safety initiatives with our hospital. We also encourage them to make us aware of any concerns so we may enhance our existing process improvement initiatives."