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The Stars of Hospital Care: Useful Information or a Distraction?

Public reporting of the quality of care delivered by physicians, hospitals, and other health care organizations has been around for a while. Some of the earliest efforts began in the 1990s, when the New York State Department of Health began reporting risk-adjusted mortality rates for surgeons performing cardiac surgery in that state. The early reports could be obtained by mailing a request to the Department of Health, which would send along a paper copy of the latest data.

Over time, as technology improved, so did the breadth and depth of public reporting. By 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) was reporting performance data for nearly every hospital in the country, dozens of states were reporting their own data, and many private entities were publicly grading hospitals. Despite the proliferation of public reporting websites, CMS’ Hospital Compare uses the most validated set of metrics available and has remained the most comprehensive resource.

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