Top hospital rankings doesn’t mean the best medical care

Hospital rankings matter. Specifically, those published in the US News & World Report carry additional weight. Hospitals use these numbers in advertising campaigns, and patients often choose hospitals based on these rankings.

But does a high place really mean you’re getting better care?

Not necessarily.

The Annals of Internal Medicine took a closer look at the hospital ratings, and found that “reputation score” was a significant factor. Indeed, “the hospitals ranked No. 1 for each of 12 medical specialties in the magazine survey reached the top spot based on their reputation scores alone, 100 percent of the time,” and furthermore, “the reputation scores were ‘minimally associated’ with objective quality measures that were also examined for each hospital.”

In effect, a big-name academic medical center doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to provide the best care.

Patients need to know that. In Boston, for instance, hospitals that rank highly on the US News survey, like Massachusetts General Hospital, have the clout to charge higher rates, because patients clamor to go to a top-rated facility.

By pointing out how reputation alone influences these rankings, we can plant the seed that a more famous hospital isn’t necessarily better.

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