Hospice providers score well on CMS' new compare site, but experts not impressed

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Hospice providers are showing impressive scores on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' recently unveiled Hospice Compare website — but those high marks are casting some doubt on whether the site will become a truly useful tool for consumers.

More than three-quarters of the hospices with data on the Compare site at least 91% on six of the seven measures included on the CMS report cards, a recent Health Affairs report showed. That's likely because hospice providers have had time to familiarize themselves on the measures that would be publicly reported, CMS officials said during a press call on the site's launch last week.

While CMS as quick to note that differentiation exists for lower-performing providers, some experts believe the high marks earned for many hospices may make it harder for consumers to weed out less than stellar providers.

Karl Steinberg, M.D., who works with the National Quality Forum's on quality measures, told STAT in a story published Friday the ratings should be taken “with a grain of salt, especially when there's not a lot of scatter.”

Joanne Lynn, M.D., a geriatrician and hospice physician with the Altarum Institute, told Kaiser Health News that it's a positive sign that CMS is working on hospice quality, but “at the present time, it's of pretty limited value.”

Hospices' ratings may diverge as more measures are added to Hospice Compare, experts noted. Currently data from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers & Systems Hospice survey is slated to be added to the site early next year, and a measure gauging the number of hospice visits when death is imminent will be added in late 2018 at the soonest, officials said.