U.S. News and World Report has released its annual lists of the best hospitals in America, but this year the rankings were based more on performance data and less on reputation.
U.S. News and World Report began rating hospitals in 1990 when clinical data comparing hospital performance didn’t exist, according to a blog post written by Avery Comarow, senior writer and health rankings editor for U.S. News. As a result, the first editions of the list were solely based on the hospitals’ reputations. The media outlet began turning away from reputation-based rankings in 1993 when it added mortality, nurse staffing and other objective measures that reflected patient care.
That focus on performance data has continued to grow. In fact, for 12 of the 16 specialties in the latest edition of Best Hospitals, more than 65 percent of a hospital’s ranking depends largely on clinical data, most of which is from the federal government. Hospitals in the four remaining specialties — ophthalmology, psychiatry, rehabilitation and rheumatology — are ranked solely by their reputation among specialists.
U.S. News says it took steps to strengthen its reputational rankings this year, including a modification that reduced the likelihood of hospitals with the highest number of physician nominations to “bob toward the top” of rankings. As a result, this “took some of the juice out of high reputational scores” and placed more emphasis on objective, clinical data. The media outlet said some hospitals that made it to the top may not have any reputational score at all — their inclusion is based wholly on clinical performance.