Boston Hospitals Among Those Snubbed by Federal Hospital Rankings

Many well-known hospitals fared worse than expected in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rankings.

Massachusetts General Hospital

Mass General photo by Samantha Carey

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Wednesday released its first-ever set of hospital rankings, which score 3,662 hospitals on a five-star system. The document has already ruffled some feathers in the medical community, with many big-name hospitals scoring lower than expected.

One example? Massachusetts General Hospital.

Despite placing first in U.S. News & World Report‘s rankings (for now—this year’s list drops August 2), Mass General received only four stars in the new ranking. Four stars is still above the national average, but it’s a surprising result for a facility consistently considered among the best in the country.

Mass General isn’t the only hospital smarting. Many medical centers have argued that the rankings penalize teaching hospitals and institutions that take on the sickest patients, as those individuals are at a higher risk of death, complications, and readmission. NPR also notes that “the ratings don’t reflect cutting edge care, such as the latest techniques to battle cancer.”

In a statement, Rick Pollack, president of the American Hospitals Association, spoke out against the new ratings. “Health care consumers making critical decisions about their care cannot be expected to rely on a rating system that raises far more questions than answers,” he said. “And it adds yet another to a long list of conflicting rating and ranking systems. Hospitals and members of Congress are in agreement: we can do better.”

CMS used 64 quality measures across seven quality categories, such as death rates, safety of care, readmissions, and patient experience, to give each hospital its starred rating. That unto itself is difficult, but the task is further complicated because not every hospital is able to report every data point. The average number of measures reported was 40, but some hospitals provided information for as few as nine.

Here in Boston, New England Baptist Hospital, which specializes in orthopedics, was the only hospital to receive five stars. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital—which placed sixth on U.S. News’ most recent list—all received three stars. Tufts Medical Center received two.

Nationwide, only 102 hospitals—2.2 percent of those analyzed—received five stars, while 934 got four stars, 1,770 got three stars, 723 got two stars, and 133 got one star.

You can see the full rankings here.