Hospital Rankings: Things Change yet Stay the Same

For my colleagues who follow hospital rankings, you probably know that the hospital held the number one spot for a very long time—21 years straight, and a total of 22 years out of the ranking’s 27 years of existence!

This year, The Johns Hopkins Hospital was ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. However, this was a special year. The way the U.S. News allocated points to the various hospitals on the list changed after 26 years of the organization using the same methodology. Indeed, a little fact that most people would not realize is that the way U.S. News determined how to count points for a hospital to be ranked number one fundamentally changed for 2016. This affected the overall standing of many of the ranked hospitals, including ours.

If U.S. News had followed the same methodology it always used this year, The Johns Hopkins Hospital would have been number one again, as Hopkins would have received 29 points, followed by Mayo Clinic and Massachusetts General, both with 28 points, Cleveland Clinic with 26, and UCLA with 24.

None of us, however, are in the business of topping lists. We’re here to find cures. We’re here to make the next great discoveries in medicine. We exist to constantly innovate care. We also have to advise on the validity of data and measures used in public rankings and in assessing quality.

Take, for example, the recent CMS Star Rankings. After carefully considering the unique way that Maryland hospitals report data, and based on research on the measures, CMS decided to blind all of the reporting on hospitals in our home state, as the data points were not comparable.

All of us in health care do the best we can to benefit the health and well-being of as many people as possible, and rankings can provide an important service when they are clear, and when the data they use validly reflect quality of care. They offer a compass to help consumers who need guidance with their health care and hospital choices. The reality is that all the data sources are not always valid, and we and others continue to strive to improve validity. But mostly we must continue to improve the care we provide as well as the overall health of our communities.  That’s why it is an honor to be among the top hospitals that provide consistently excellent care and that were ranked by U.S. News and World Report.

As someone who’s witnessed the profoundly compassionate and innovative care our people provide, and the way that we never take anything for granted, Hopkins will remain the “best” in my eyes.

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