Medicare to start paying hospitals based on quality, not quantity

Berwick said the new regulations would acknowledge both achievements and improvements, so that cash-strapped hospitals that serve poor areas aren't at a disadvantage.

"We need all boats to rise on the rising tide of quality," he said.

Some of the quality measures that will be tracked include whether: 

• Patients who may have had a heart attack receive care within 90 minutes;

• Surgery patients get follow-up care within 24 hours to prevent blood clots;

• Hospitals communicate discharge instructions to heart failure patients; and

• Facilities are clean and well-maintained.

"We are especially pleased that measuring patients' experience of care is an important component of this rule," said Christine Bechtel of the Campaign for Better Care, "since it is the only way to get systematic feedback directly from patients and their families about the changes hospitals need to make to improve health outcomes."