It’s not as user-friendly as Consumer Reports, but the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ overall star rating system represents progress in getting data into the hands of health care consumers. And despite some methodological shortcomings, it puts providers on their toes, which is a good thing.

On July 27, CMS published one-to-five-star ratings of the overall quality of hospitals, designed to help patients and their loved ones compare facilities near them side-by-side.

The ratings are intended to empower consumers in asking important questions about their care, the process it’s likely to follow, the costs and outcomes they can expect (including risks), and what their other options may be when they anticipate being admitted to a hospital.

The ratings summarize 64 quality metrics into a single score, covering everything from patient satisfaction to safety issues like hospital-acquired infections and mortality rates – and lots in between.

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