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Study Finds CMS Methodology Does Not Distort Hospital Star Ratings

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) uses hierarchical modeling to stabilize its hospital quality star ratings by shrinking the performance of low-volume hospitals toward the performance of average hospitals. Responding to criticism that the methodology may distort the performance of low-volume hospitals, a CMS expert panel recommended that the agency consider using “shrinkage targets” to more accurately classify hospital quality performance. A study published in Health Affairs sought to test the “shrinkage targets” approach. To do this, researchers created two parallel sets of performance measures. They found that there was moderate-to-substantial agreement between the standard CMS approach and the approach based on shrinkage targets in hospital star ratings for all but the lowest-volume hospitals. These findings suggest that the standard CMS risk-adjustment methodology does not distort the star ratings of hospitals as long as case volumes exceed the current cutoff (twenty-five cases) used by CMS for public reporting.

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