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U.S. agency ranks Virginia hospitals

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services allows patients to learn more about hospitals in their communities.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services allows patients to learn more about hospitals in their communities.

Once a year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services or CMS posts hospital ratings on its website. Only 13% of them qualify for five stars based on a number of factors.

“Mortality, safety, re-admissions, patient experience, and then timely or effective care – things like access and cost."

Dr. Tracey Hoke is chief of quality and performance improvement at UVA’s medical center – one of at least a dozen hospitals that get five stars in Virginia. Among the others are Martha Jefferson in Charlottesville, the Salem V-A, Henrico Doctors’ Hospital and Centra Health in Lynchburg.

Hoke says the ratings are based on information from bills paid by Medicare and on patient surveys.

“There is, of course, an attempt to risk-adjust for the severity of illness of your patients," she adds. "Some hospitals receive transfers from other hospitals, and so you want to be careful comparing that very sick ICU population transferred in from another hospital with the population that would stay at a community or outlying hospital.”

Of course, many people live in communities where there’s just one choice, but Hoke says most have options.

“I can think of a whole line of east coast cities along I-95 where there’s an awful lot of competition," Hoke says. "You can look out your window from one hospital and see another.”

There are other rating services –Leapfrog and U.S. News. They often disagree, so it’s important to read their explanations of how they evaluate medical centers. It’s also worth noting that a high score for care doesn’t always translate to a great patient experience or vice versa. Russell County Hospital in Lebanon gets only one star from CMS, but patients give it a five. You can research your local hospitals at


Editor's note: An earlier version of this story indicated Wellspan Hospital in Waynesboro had received five stars. That hospital is in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania — not Waynesboro Virginia.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief