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What Makes a Hospital Great? 7 Standard Measurements of Quality

MSN programs can train nurses to power hospitals to peak performance.

Eating a good apple. Watching a good movie. Reading a good book. Those are all experiences we enjoy—and feel pretty good about. But when it comes to healthcare, and particularly hospital stays, most of us are likely to have a different expectation. We don’t just want good, we want great. Great doctors, great nurse practitioners, great APRNs, great hospitals.

To help determine what’s good and what’s great, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) gathers and analyzes a wide range of data from more than 4,000 U.S. hospitals each year. CMS filters this information into seven main categories to determine a rating—of up to five stars—for each hospital.1

What Makes a Hospital Great? 7 Standard Measurements of Quality

The information, presented online at Hospital Compare,2 allows consumers to make informed decisions about their healthcare, points hospitals toward opportunities for improvement, and can help professionals moving from an RN to MSN make choices about future nursing careers. If you’re pursuing your master’s degree in nursing, knowing about the seven measurements of quality and how hospitals stack up may provide insights into nursing school specializations and opportunities for future employment.

To calculate a hospital’s overall rating, the CMS analyzes:

  1. Mortality
    This category looks at death rates across seven categories: heart attacks, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, pneumonia, stroke, and serious treatable complications after surgery.
  2. Safety of Care
    Reporting into this group are eight measures tracking incidences of infection, such as central-line-associated bloodstream infection, and rates of complications after procedures like hip and knee replacements.
  3. Readmission
    There are nine categories relating to readmission, including the number of hospital return days for heart attack patients, and the rate of unplanned readmission for COPD patients or for patients after hip or knee surgery.
  4. Patient Experience
    Here’s where patients have their say on 11 different topics, including communication with their nurses and doctors, pain control, room and bathroom cleanliness, and clarity of discharge instructions. They also are asked to rate the hospital, and whether they would be likely to recommend it to friends and family.
  5. Effectiveness of Care
    The 10 data points aggregated under effectiveness of care cover a range of interactions. Were patients assessed and given flu vaccinations? Did outpatients reporting chest pain receive aspirin within 24 hours of arrival or before being transferred to another department?
  6. Timeliness of Care
    Eight measures of emergency room efficiency are considered in this category. For example, how long did patients spend in the ER before being admitted to the hospital or being released? How many minutes did patients with broken bones wait before receiving pain medication?
  7. Efficient Use of Medical Imaging
    Hospitals report up to five data points pertaining to the use of MRIs, CT scans, and cardiac imaging stress tests with outpatients.

Once all the measures are in, hospital report cards are issued. Of the 4,573 facilities, 293 (6.41%) received 5 stars; 1,086 (23.75%), 4 stars; 1,264 (27.64%), 3 stars; 800 (17.49%), 2 stars; 282 (6.17%), 1 star; and 848 (18.54%) received no star rating.

Nurses have the ability to make hospitals great, and as the CMS rating system and results show, there are myriad ways to make a difference. Master’s in nursing programs at accredited online universities offer the opportunity to prepare for many nursing career paths. An MSN with a nurse executive specialization can help you build a career as a nurse manager, a leader, and a change-maker in the world of healthcare. You may also aspire to become a chief nursing officer, a job which commands one of the top nursing salaries.3 If you enjoy technology, you may consider a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in nursing informatics, a specialty the American Nurses Association says “integrates nursing science, computer science, and information science to manage and communicate data, information, and knowledge in nursing practice.” With a healthcare informatics specialty, you may even be the one to develop the next hospital-quality rating system.

Bump your career from good to great with a master’s in nursing online. Find your own five-star MSN program and get ready to help others reach for the stars.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering MSN programs with eight specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.




Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,