Grady, Wellstar Atlanta get only 1-star rating from feds

Grady, Wellstar Atlanta get only 1-star rating from feds

“While rankings are helpful tools, they do have limitations,” Augusta University Health said in a statement.

The system’s AU Medical Center is among those treating a wide range of vulnerable patients at a teaching hospital with a trauma center that tends to handle more complex cases and treatments. “Rating systems such as the CMS star rating do not fully account for underlying health disparities or the complexities of care delivered by academic medical centers,” AU Health said.

The system said it strives to “provide quality, evidence-based medicine in a safe environment with compassion, integrity and respect for our patients.”

Wellstar, which operates hospitals and clinics across metro Atlanta, said its hospitals are “widely recognized” for providing high-quality care. Wellstar Paulding got a 4-star score from CMS and several locations got 3 stars in the new ratings. But with two hospitals on the 1-star list, Wellstar questioned the system. “The CMS Star rating does not accurately reflect our system’s high quality of care and dedication to providing that same high quality, personalized care and services for patients with varying care needs across the communities we serve,” Wellstar said in a statement.

Grady Memorial Hospital didn’t immediately comment on the new ratings.

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Maryellen Guinan, principal policy analyst at America’s Essential Hospitals, said the new methodology is a “step in the right direction.” But she said the ratings don’t yet give patients a complete picture. She said the system needs to better adjust for patient risk on measures associated with readmissions. Augusta University Health System and Grady are both members of the national organization.

“We will continue to work with CMS to ensure the star ratings give consumers a full, accurate, and fair way to compare hospitals,” Guinan said.

While the overall star ratings are controversial within the industry, they were created to give consumers an easy way to compare local hospitals. Consumers who want to dig deeper also have access to dozens of detailed quality measures for almost every hospital in the country at the CMS Care Compare website. The site also rates physicians, nursing homes, hospice and home health companies, as well as other providers.

Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro received a 4-star rating from the federal system even as it worked to overcome the financial challenges that have forced other small, rural hospitals to close.

Jimmy Lewis, CEO of Hometown Health, an advocacy group for rural providers in Georgia, said Emanuel Medical Center's CEO Damien Scott, shown here, provided leadership to help the hospital earn favorable quality ratings. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Jimmy Lewis, CEO of Hometown Health, an advocacy group for rural providers in Georgia, said Emanuel Medical Center’s CEO Damien Scott, shown here, provided leadership to help the hospital earn favorable quality ratings. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Jimmy Lewis, CEO of Hometown Health, an advocacy group for rural providers in Georgia, said Emanuel’s CEO Damien Scott provided leadership to help the hospital earn favorable quality ratings. He said the hospital was especially innovative during the pandemic, using telemedicine to connect patients with more advanced care when needed, relying on experts at Augusta University.

The telemedicine services were offered to patients with a variety of symptoms. “Anything short of surgery they could and can do,” Lewis said. “It provides an overall increased credibility for the hospital in the community.”


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