Payback Can Be A………….!

I am on vacation which some people think is redundant when you are retired. As I write this, I am somewhere between the Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. I was not going to post a blog entry this week because that is a no-no when you have left the beach to take a vacation. However, an article was published today that I could not resist briefly commenting on.

Dating back at least eight years in my old blog I wrote as NorthBay Healthcare’s CEO, I have criticized hospital ratings, the methodology used by the purveyors of those ratings and the motives of the organizations which issue them. In the case of the Medicare folks (CMS), their motives are relatively pure but their execution leaves a lot to be desired. Then there is the sanctimonious organization called Leap Frog whose rating methodology is a joke which they don’t get. The two other organizations (USA Today and Healthgrades) have their own murky motives for issuing questionable ratings.

When these organizations periodically issue their ratings, hospitals howl about the methodologies used and the misleading results. The hospital’s comments are dismissed as self-serving by the almighty raters. Sometimes they are just that. Most of the time though, the comments reveal real weaknesses in the methodologies used by the rating organizations to grade hospital performance.

Today the New England Journal of Medicine in its “Catalyst” publication published an article “Rating the Rater”. Among the conclusions was the following:

In this Rating the Raters initiative, we found that the current hospital quality rating systems should be used cautiously as they likely often misclassify hospital performance and mislead. 

Now guess who is howling? The loudest howler is the Leap Frog organization which can dish out the criticism but cannot take it. USA Today received a “B” rating, most likely as a result of a recent methodology change. CMS got a solid “C”. The two most problematic rating organizations got a “C-” (Leap Frog) and a “D+” (Healthgrades).

Their comments in response today are funnier than the comedians on my cruise ship. Payback can be a ……….!