Hopefully you get more than just one gold star. In CMS’ infinite wisdom to help ‘educate’ patients and family members, home health agencies are going to receive gold stars based on yet-unknown measures. The five star system is set to be in place by 2016.
The five star rating system is currently being used by CMS to rank nursing homes, Medicare Advantage plans, physician groups, and accountable care organizations. The system ranks with one star being considered poor and five stars being the best. The star rankings and their meanings, which seem to make more sense to those at CMS than to a normal person, are as follows:
* Much Below Average
** Below Average
**** Above Average
***** Much Above Average
With those intelligent and ever insightful rankings from CMS, you can be sure a patient will select an agency based on how many stars you have. An important point you need to be aware of is the fact that most consumers and patients have no idea what Home Health Compare is, let alone where you find it. Most of the traffic to the site is by agency staff benchmarking against other agencies and clueless researchers who needed to fill space on their CV.
So with this new tool to help consumers make a choice (we aren’t trying to make a joke about patient choice, but insert your own about your favorite hospital with their own agency), the star system presents itself as a marketing opportunity. Using your star power as a marketing tool can help promote your agency. If done correctly, using stars to represent your best rankings will make potential patients take notice.
Visuals that are tied to substance do a lot for your agency’s credibility. While the release is still over a year away, getting to understand the metrics and data that determine your star power is important. By continuing to improve quality and tweaking policies that favor improved patient care, you can start on a solid foundation of making sure you get four or five stars. No one likes to be seen as just average. And you certainly don’t want to be below average, so take the time to make sure you are above average!
We can only hope that someone at CMS actually thinks before releasing the data and improves their titles associated with each star. Data is a great tool, but you need to be sure that you are able to explain the data clearly so people in the real world can understand it. Right now, the star system is still in space but will hopefully come back to earth with the aid of some common sense. If not, Dr. Woolhandler might just have to issue another report – and we really don’t need that.