Do Health Scores Tell the Whole Story?

Ratings are everywhere, from hair salons to rideshare drivers to vacation rentals. And regulators issue ratings of hospitals, nursing homes and healthcare plans. But do they convey what they’re intended to? In a new study, Kellogg associate professor of managerial economics and decision sciences Daniel Martin and Tami Kim, an assistant professor in the department of marketing, found that in many cases these ratings fail to communicate what they’re supposed to. They looked at whether consumers in an area understood the meaning of a restaurant’s health score—the maximum score is 100—and found that the scores often don’t tell people very much.

Achieving a high rating, say 85, means that the restaurant had no serious safety violations and is generally considered safe. But a low rating, such as 85, could actually mean that the restaurant had numerous high-risk safety violations, which is dangerous and unacceptable. Martin and Kim’s research suggests that, in the case of health scores, it’s important for regulators to carefully consider how they convey their meaning to consumers so that they can effectively improve health outcomes.

This year’s State Scorecard includes a new domain that ranks states on their performance in reproductive care and women’s health, as well as a separate domain that looks at the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on state health systems and their ability to meet their constituents’ needs. Overall, Massachusetts and Hawaii rank highest on our indicators of performance, while Arkansas, Oklahoma, and West Virginia perform the worst. health scores united states