Need help researching hospitals in your area? You might find some help from U.S. News and World Report, which released its 22nd annual ranking of the nation's "Best Hospitals" today.
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and Massachusetts General Hospital took the top "Honor Roll" hospitals, which were ranked near the top in six or more specialty areas.
Here are the top 10:
1. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
2. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
3. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
4. Cleveland Clinic
5. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
6. New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell, N.Y.
7. UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco
8. Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston
9. Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
10. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
Johns Hopkins Hospital stayed in the top spot from last year's rankings and Massachusetts General Hospital beat out Mayo Clinic to take the silver this year.
The rankings were based on death rates, patient safety and other objective data. Physicians' opinions of the best hospitals for the toughest medical cases were also factored into the results.
"[This is] a huge marketing opportunity for the top hospitals, hospitals really do look forward to the rankings for all the obvious reasons," said Dr. Marie Savard, a Philadelphia internist and ABC News medical contributor. "But more important, and on a serious note, -this list serves as a point of reference for hospitals and other providers along with practitioners and patients. It gives them a benchmark of what they may expect of other hospitals, what services ... are truly top notch, evidenced based and with best possible outcomes."
But Savard was quick to note there are many "fabulous" hospitals with smaller markets in smaller communities that might not have the same ability to track outcomes as larger hospitals. This should not deter people from being confident in their local hospital.
Along with U.S. News and World Report, there are several other independent organizations, including Hospital Compare and Health Grades, that rank the nation's hospitals, but all that data can cause confusion for some consumers.
"The proliferation of hospital rankings has made it very difficult for consumers to identify good hospitals," said Dr. Ashish Jha of Harvard School of Public Health. "Yet, it has never been more important for consumers to actively be involved in their care. The hospital that they choose can have a profound impact on whether they live or die from their medical condition."
U.S. News and World Report notes that its mission in creating the rankings is to "help guide patients who need an especially high level of care because of a difficult surgery, a challenging condition or added risk because of other health problems or age."
While the "best hospital" rankings are more limited in scope than Hospital Care, Jha said, their methods are still quite robust and "they are much more consumer-friendly" than some of the other available lists.
Hospital Rankings Abound
"Consumers should look at the methods behind the rankings, including the source of the data," said Dr. Elizabeth Mort, vice president of quality and safety at Massachusetts General Hospital. "I would also suggest that consumers not rely on a single source, but look at a number of sources, USNWR, Hospital Compare, and an excellent site developed by the Commonwealth Fund, WhyNotTheBest.org, come to mind as places to start."
Mort also said that patients should research specific hospitals they're interested in and get opinions from medical professionals.
"The industry's ability to measure quality has improved over the past decade and the numbers of measures available is expanding exponentially," Mort said. "Hospitals will be required to measure and report on even more measures in the future. The good news is that we should have better systems to measure quality as we move ahead."