Study: Magazine's Rankings Of Hospitals Not Based On Data

04.20.2010 - Value Based Purchasing

By Nicole Ostrow

April 19 (Bloomberg) -- Hospitals rated as top by U.S. News & World Report are chosen using a system that reflects their reputation with little connection to objective measures of quality of care, a study said.

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, according to an analysis published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The reputation scores were “minimally associated” with objective quality measures that were also examined for each hospital, according to the study from Case Western Reserve University.

The U.S. News & World Report rankings are used by consumers, hospitals and political leaders to make decisions about health care, said study author Ashwini Sehgal. The magazine needs to change how they weigh the reputation score or eliminate it completely and include other factors like patient satisfaction, Sehgal said.

Avery Comarow, the U.S. News editor for the hospital rankings, said "the magazine has taken steps to reduce the influence of reputation in the rankings. 'We get criticized a lot for putting emphasis on reputation. Since we're looking at hospitals that do really well with the most critical patients, there's a very good case to be made that the reputational survey is a valid and legitimate form of peer review,' Comarow said. 'We will take a further step with the rankings that come out this year. But I would not propose to eliminate it'"

The study appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine and the author notes a limitation: "The findings apply primarily to interpretations about the relative standings of the 50 top-ranked hospitals in each specialty and not necessarily to the hundreds of unranked hospitals"