Original Research

Total Joint Arthroplasty Quality Ratings: How Are They Similar and How Are They Different?

Author and Disclosure Information



One investigator reviewed the website of each organization fitting the inclusion criteria to determine the full rating methodology in 1 sitting on July 2, 2016. Detailed notes were taken on each program using publicly available information. For organizations that used proprietary criteria for quality designation (eg, The Joint Commission [TJC]), only publicly available information was used in the analysis. Therefore, the information reported is solely based on data available online to the public.

Detailed quality designation criteria were condensed into broader categories (accreditation, volume, structural, process, outcomes, patient experience, and cost/efficiency) to capture differences between each organization reviewed. In addition, we recorded whether each organization published a list of providers that received its quality designation.


A total of 7 organizations fit our inclusion criteria9-15 (Table). Of these 7 organizations, 3 were private payers (Aetna, UnitedHealth, and Blue Cross Blue Shield [BCBS]), 2 were nongovernmental not-for-profit organizations (TJC and Consumer Reports), and 2 were consumer-based and/or for-profit organizations (HealthGrades and US News & World Report [USNWR]). There were no government agencies that fit our inclusion criteria. BCBS had the following 2 separate quality designations: BCBS Blue Distinction and BCBS Blue Distinction+. The only difference between the 2 BCBS ratings is that BCBS Blue Distinction+ includes cost efficiency ratings, whereas BCBS Blue Distinction does not.

Only the 3 private payers and TJC, the primary hospital accreditation body in the United States, required accreditation as part of its quality designation criteria. TJC requires its own accreditation for quality designation consideration, whereas the 3 private payers allow accreditation from one of a variety of sources. Aetna Institutes of Quality for Orthopedic Surgery requires accreditation by TJC, Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program, American Osteopathic Association, National Integrated Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations, or Det Norske Veritas Healthcare. UnitedHealth Premium Total Joint Replacement (TJR) Specialty Center requires accreditation by TJC and/or equivalent of TJC accreditation. However, TJC accreditation equivalents are not noted in the UnitedHealth handbook. BCBS Blue Distinction and Distinction+ require accreditation by TJC, Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program, National Integrated Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations, or Center for Improvement in Healthcare Quality. In addition, BCBS is willing to consider alternative accreditations that are at least as stringent as the national alternatives noted. However, no detailed criteria that must be met to be equivalent to the national standards are noted in the relevant quality designation handbook.

The volume of completed total hip and knee arthroplasty procedures was considered in 6 of the organizations’ quality ratings methodologies. Of those 6, all private payers, TJC (not-for-profit), and 2 for-profit rating agencies were included. Surgeon specialization in TJA was only explicitly noted as a factor considered in UnitedHealth Premium TJR Specialty Center criteria; however, the requirements for surgeon specialization were not clearly defined. In addition, the presence of a multidisciplinary clinical pathway was only explicitly considered for Aetna Institutes of Quality for Orthopedic Surgery.

Structural requirements (eg, use of electronic health records [EHR], staffing levels, etc.) were taken into account in private payer and USNWR quality methodologies. Process measures (eg, antibiotic prophylaxis and other care pathways) were considered for the private payers and TJC but not for USNWR quality designation. Cost and/or efficiency measures were factors in the quality formula for Aetna Institutes of Quality for Orthopedic Surgery and BCBS Distinction+. Aetna utilizes its own cost data and risk-adjusts using a product known as Symmetry Episode Risk Groups to determine cost-effectiveness, while BCBS uses its own Composite Facility Cost Index. Patient experience (eg, Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems [HCAHPS]) was incorporated into the quality formulas for 4 of the 7 quality designation programs examined.

Continue to: All of the 7 quality designation programs included...


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