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Study Finds Cancer Mortality Rate Disparity Based on Hospital Ratings

A study published in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum (Oxford University Press) found that the mortality rates for complex cancer procedures differ greatly between one-star hospitals (10.4%) and five-star hospitals (6.4%).

The safety of complex cancer surgeries varies widely across hospitals in the United States, with as much as a four-fold difference in hospital mortality rates, volume of patients, hospital experience, and surgeon training. Researchers have previously suggested that a large-scale shift of patients away from high-risk hospitals could meaningfully reduce mortality rates for complex cancer surgeries. Yet there are numerous challenges to matching patients with hospitals that are best suited to perform a specific procedure. In particular, hospital volumes and surgery-specific performance data are not readily available to patients and providers.

Researchers examined the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ “Star Rating” system, which serves as a guide for patients to compare the quality of each hospital’s care based on 62 measurements, but is not specific to any medical operation or patient population. Despite this fact, researchers found that the ratings correlate with quality and safety across many patient care scenarios, including the risk of mortality after complex cancer surgery.

The study concluded mortality after complex cancer surgery is associated with CMS Star Rating. However, the use of CMS Star Ratings by patients to identify the safest hospitals for cancer surgery would be relatively inefficient and of only modest impact.

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