(BPT) - Patty Gonzales' kidneys stopped working when she was 62 years old. She works as a hospital billing claims supervisor and now undergoes dialysis three days a week for four hours a day. For Gonzales, dialysis is the difference between life and death, so the quality of the care she receives is critical. But until recently, there was no way for patients like Gonzales to know which level of quality their dialysis clinics were delivering.
That changed earlier this year when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a Five-Star Rating System similar to how some other health care providers, as well as restaurants and movies, are rated. Gonzales was relieved to learn that the DaVita Kidney Care center where she gets her treatment is a five-star center.
'There was nothing that rated the quality of clinics when I started dialysis, so I guess in my case I'm just lucky I found the right one,' Gonzales says. 'I think this is a great system because when you depend on something for your survival, you want to make sure you're going to the best.'
There are more than 400,000 dialysis patients like Gonzales in the United States who require life-sustaining treatments multiple times per week.
The new CMS Five-Star Rating System was created to give consumers a better picture of how their locally delivered health care compares to health care services across the nation. All center ratings can be found at Medicare.gov/DialysisFacilityCompare.
The ratings show a wide disparity among medical providers. For instance, DaVita Kidney Care has 54 percent of all the four- and five-star centers in the industry.
For people who are preparing for dialysis, many might not know that they can choose their dialysis provider, treatment facility and even type of dialysis treatment.
According to Dr. Stephen McMurray, vice president, clinical integrated care management for DaVita Kidney Care, 'There are numerous factors that can indicate the level of quality delivered by a dialysis provider, and it's important to know what questions to ask to make the best decision.'
He suggests that patients ask how a provider facilitates a better quality of life for its patients, how it reduces the risk of hospitalization, whether it meets or exceeds vaccination rates and also what five-star rating it holds.
CMS unveiled a similar rating system for nursing homes in 2008 to give consumers more detailed information on nursing home quality and costs to help them make better and more informed decisions. Today the Nursing Home Compare website gets approximately 1.4 million visits per year.
CMS used the same approach to launch the Five-Star Rating System for dialysis centers, with the goal of offering a level of transparency that previously didn't exist in kidney care.
'Five-Star's distillation of nine data points measure the quality of care a patient receives, including mortality and hospitalizations,' says Dr. McMurray. 'CMS has created a tool that should help patients understand where the best dialysis centers are from Anchorage to Atlanta and from Augusta to Anaheim.'
For an inclusive listing of dialysis centers in your area, go to www.dialysisfinder.com. For more information, visit Davita.com/Five-Star.