To help consumers quickly identify differences in healthcare quality and performance data, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has added star ratings to the Dialysis Facility Compare (DFC) website.

Summarizing performance data that dialysis facilities provide, the CMS system gives a rating on a one-to-five-star scale based on information about the quality of care and services. DFC joins the Nursing Home Compare and Physician Compare websites in expanding the use of star ratings. CMS also anticipates adding star ratings to Home Health Compare and Hospital Compare in 2015.

CMS took the step of adding star ratings after the Government Accountability Office criticized CMS’s five healthcare transparency tools—Nursing Home Compare, Dialysis Facility Compare, Home Health Compare, Hospital Compare and Physician Compare. GAO found that the tools lack relevant information on cost and provide limited information on key differences in quality of care, which hinders the ability of consumers to make meaningful distinctions among providers based on their performance.

In response to the GAO report, CMS agreed to organize the cost and quality information provided in its Compare websites to facilitate consumer identification of the highest performing providers, such as by listing providers in order based on ratings of the quality of their performance.

“Star ratings are simple to understand and are an excellent resource for patients, their families, and caregivers to use when talking to doctors about health care choices,” said outgoing CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a written statement. “CMS has taken another step in its continuous commitment to improve quality measures and transparency.”

In addition to posting the star ratings, CMS has updated data on individual DFC quality measures to reflect the most recent data for the existing measures. Currently, nine DFC quality measures are being used collectively for determining the DFC star ratings. In the future, CMS will add more measures.

CMS plans to add the Standardized Readmission Ratio (SRR) for dialysis facilities to the publicly reported quality outcome measures available on the Compare website. SRR, which is a measure of care coordination, is not included in DFC’s star rating at this time.

DFC quality measure data is either updated quarterly or annually. CMS plans to update the DFC’s star rating on an annual basis beginning in October 2015.

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