CMS Publishes Home Health Patient Survey Star Ratings

The first “Patient Survey Star Ratings” for Medicare-certified home health agencies have arrived.

On Thursday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced the first of such star ratings on Home Health Compare, CMS’ public information website with details on how well Medicare-certified agencies care for their patients.

The new star ratings, which were first announced in May 2015, are meant to reflect patients’ experiences with home health agencies.

The Home Health Care Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Survey (HHCAHPS) star ratings utilize data from patients who have been treated by an agency—or data from a patient’s friends and family. The highest rating—five stars—reflects the best patient experience.

Beginning Jan. 28, for every home health agency featured in Home Health Compare, an individual can view five different HHCAHPS Survey star ratings: care of patients, specific care issues, communication between providers and patients, overall rating of care provided by the home health agency and survey summary star rating.

In the past, patients could choose multiple agencies at one time on Home Health Compare to compare performance on individual HHCAHPS items. Additionally, patients have had access to summary Quality of Patient Care star ratings for each agency. These star ratings summarize home health agencies’ performance on nine quality measures that indicate how well they help their patients in maintaining or regaining important functional abilities and how often they adhere to evidence-based processes of care.

However, the Quality of Care ratings are determined using a different method than the Patient Survey ratings. For their quality rating, agencies essentially are rated on a curve, so that the majority of providers fall in the mid-range. That is not the case for the new patient survey ratings, which are not distributed on a curve: Only 51 agencies received a one-star rating, while more than 2,100 received a five-star rating, news sources reported Thursday.

More than 11,000 agencies have data on Home Health Compare, and over 6,000 of them currently have patient care experience star ratings, CMS said. Though some home health agencies do not currently have enough data to determine and display star ratings, those home health agencies could have star ratings in the future.

“Having the HHCAHPS Survey star ratings on Home Health Compare helps patients and their families make more informed health care decisions and encourages home health agencies to strive for higher levels of quality and patient experience,” CMS Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway said in a prepared statement. “We hope patients and their families find this information helpful and visit our other provider comparison websites.”

Written by Mary Kate Nelson