According to a recent report published by the Economic Alliance for Michigan, hospitals situated in neighborhoods with predominantly lower income residents tend to score lower in quality and patient safety assessments when compared to hospitals in higher-income neighborhoods.
The report was based on Medicare’s Star Ratings program, which provides an overall rating of the Medicare plan’s quality and performance for each type of service offered. According to Medicare.gov, the rating measures performance in five different categories: screening tests and vaccines; management of chronic conditions; member ratings of the health plan; member complaints and changes in the performance of the plan over time; and how well the plan handles customer service. Plans covering drug services have separate criteria for the rating purposes.
The star rating system is important because hospitals which consistently have lower quality ratings can end up losing federal funding for Medicare, which could leave patients in low-income neighborhoods with diminished access to medical care. The report did recommend additional study on the question of whether there are other factors that may impact the hospital ratings, such readmission rates, staffing ratios, and patient payer mix.
Certainly, the quality of care rating of a hospital is an indication that patients who receive care at the hospital are more at risk for medical errors. Not all medical errors, of course, have a significant or long-term affect on patients, but some do. Patients who have become the victim of a serious medical error should always work with an experienced attorney to determine their options for seeking compensation and to ensure their rights are protected.