Health Care

Feds give KU Hospital its first 5-star rating, but a JoCo hospital gets first 1-star

The University of Kansas Hospital, the biggest in the Kansas City area, got a five-star rating from the federal government for the first time. But in another first, Olathe Medical Center dropped to only one star.

The annual Medicare “Hospital Compare” star ratings have been controversial since they began in 2016, and KU officials have been among those criticizing their accuracy in the past.

But KU Health System chief operating officer Tammy Peterman said this year’s rating fits with what the hospital has received from other organizations.

“We are pleased with the 5-Star ranking,” Peterman said. “Our performance has been consistent when compared to the best health care organizations in the country as recognized by Vizient and U.S. News and World Report.”

Providence Medical Center in western Wyandotte County and St. Luke’s South in Overland Park got five stars for the second consecutive year.

Olathe Medical Center was the only Kansas hospital to be rated one star. The only other Kansas City area hospital with that rating was Truman Medical Center, which got one star for the second straight year.

Olathe Medical Center spokesman Mike Jensen said the rating was “surprising,” given that the hospital has performed well in another Medicare program that rewards clinical care, patient safety, community engagement and cost reduction.

He said the hospital had also recently received high honors for quality from the American College of Cardiology and the Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance collective.

But the one-star rating is still “unacceptable” he said.

“As always, we are completely focused on improvement in all areas,” Jensen said. “In our assessment we have identified opportunities in collaboration with our outstanding physicians to better document the great care we provide.”

As recently as 2017, Olathe Medical Center received three stars.

While Truman Medical Center’s main campus got another one-star rating, its Lakewood campus climbed to four stars.

“Truman Medical Centers is pleased to see that the high level of quality care offered at our Lakewood campus has been reflected with a 4-star ranking,” the hospital’s public relations department said in a statement. “However, we continue to believe that the ranking system needs to adjust its measures to better account for medical centers caring for vulnerable populations.”

Truman officials have said the main campus rankings don’t account for their role as Jackson County’s only safety net hospital. Lakewood, located in a more affluent part of Kansas City, always gets a higher score.

Truman was one of seven hospitals in Missouri to get one star.

The Medicare star ratings combine dozens of measurements collected through patient surveys, as well as claims data related to timeliness and effectiveness of care in eight common conditions, rates of surgical complications, infections and death, unplanned hospital re-admissions, proper and safe use of medical imaging tests and value of care for the price.

This year’s ratings examined more than 4,500 facilities nationwide, giving five stars to 293, four stars to 1,086; three stars to 1,264; two stars to 800 and one star to 282.

The rankings have been criticized for lumping together all hospitals without accounting for differences in the patients they serve, whether they’re for for-profit or nonprofit, small rural community hospitals, large academic medical centers and suburban facilities in wealthy areas.

They’ve also been called outdated. The latest rankings, released last month, are based on data collected in 2017 or the first few months of 2018.

The federal agency that oversees Medicare has continued to tweak the ratings system in response to complaints form the industry, but American Hospital Association vice president Tom Nickels said this year that the system “has been flawed from the outset” and changes haven’t fixed that.

His organization had urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, not to make the latest ratings public until more work was done.

“Today’s update has not addressed the major concerns about the methodology and usefulness of the star ratings,” Nickels said Feb. 28. “That is why the AHA asked CMS to postpone its publication until concerns about the methodology could be remedied.”

Area hospital ratings

Medicare Hospital Compare ratings for hospitals within 30 miles of Kansas City:

Providence Medical Center - 5

St. Luke’s South - 5

University of Kansas Hospital - 5

Cass Regional Medical Center - 4

Liberty Hospital - 4

Shawnee Mission Medical Center (AdventHealth KC) - 4

St. John Hospital (Leavenworth) - 4

St. Joseph Medical Center - 4

St. Luke’s - 4

St. Luke’s East - 4

St. Luke’s North - 4

St. Mary’s Medical Center - 4

Truman Medical Center Lakewood - 4

Belton Regional Medical Center - 3

Lee’s Summit Medical Center - 3

Menorah Medical Center - 3

North Kansas City - 3

St. Luke’s Cushing (Leavenworth) - 3

Centerpoint Medical Center - 2

Overland Park Regional - 2

Research Medical Center - 2

Olathe Medical Center - 1

Truman Medical Center (Hospital Hill) - 1

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Kansas City Star health reporter Andy Marso was part of a Pulitzer Prize-finalist team at The Star and previously won state and regional awards at the Topeka Capital-Journal and Kansas Health Institute News Service. He has written two books, including one about his near-fatal bout with meningitis.