VA ends star-rating system of its hospitals

By STEVE BEYNON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 13, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has done away with the five-star rating system that it used to grade its hospitals for the public.

Veteran advocates, lawmakers and news reporters often cite the VA’s grading system, a one to five scale, when highlighting the quality of a facility. Now, the department wants to compare its facilities to other private hospitals in a local area. However, it's unclear how the department will rate its hospitals against others in the same region. 

“Star ratings were developed as an internal tool meant to compare one VA facility to another,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said Wednesday in a statement. “These ratings do not provide insight as to how our hospitals stack up against nearby non-VA facilities and are therefore of little value in helping veterans make informed health care decisions. This change will make it easier for veterans to choose the best possible care close to home, when and where they need it.”

The VA said their rankings were often misrepresented and weren’t always useful for veterans. 

“Star ratings are often misinterpreted, as they compare VA facilities by ranking them across the department’s health care system, rather than by geography, population characteristics or unique care offerings.” the department said in a news release. “Additionally, veterans in VA focus groups have indicated they do not consult the star ratings in making decisions about VA care.”

While the VA is ditching their broad rating metrics, the department will still track some data used to rate the facilities such as death rates, complications, safety and patient satisfaction, which will be publicly available.

The VA issued a replacement tool for veterans to compared services at their local VA provider to other hospitals in their area. But it does not offer a clear comparison of overall service.

“I’m reserving judgment,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. “The rating system wasn’t perfect...but we do need a way to hold the medical centers accountable.”

Twitter: @StevenBeynon

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