U.S. News hospital rankings to include new categories, examine equity

By | July 1, 2021

Dive Brief:

  • U.S. News & World Report’s annual best hospitals rankings will include a number of new categories and other tweaks when the 2021-2022 list comes out July 27, according to a statement released Wednesday.
  • The publication is ranking hospitals on seven new procedures and conditions, including heart attack, stroke, pneumonia, diabetes, kidney failure, hip fracture and back surgery/spinal fusion.
  • The list will also include measures of certain aspects of health equity to be published alongside the rankings, though they won’t be factored into the actual rankings, according to the statement. Two other notable categories U.S. News will now look at are nurse staffing and overuse.

Dive Insight:

When 2020’s annual rankings were released last summer, U.S. News acknowledged it would likely have to make some changes to its process considering the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among some of the changes to this year’s list are two key issues the public health crisis brought into focus: health disparities and nurse staffing.

While the measures of health equity won’t be factored into rankings this year, a larger portfolio of health equity measures is in the works, according to the statement. A report last year from the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, found many renowned healthcare institutions with good clinical outcomes struggle to address health inequities in their communities.

The publication will calculate each hospital’s level of nurse staffing using data reported to the American Hospital Association that dates back three years to smooth yearly fluctuations.

With the addition of seven new procedure rankings, the list will now rank hospitals on 17 procedures and conditions and 16 specialties in total. More than 4,000 hospitals will receive a rating in one or more of the new procedure categories when this year’s rankings are released.

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Through the new back surgery rating, U.S. News is also introducing an “overuse” category based on measures calculated by data scientists at the Lown Institute, “because a pattern of overuse or low-value care is not compatible with being a high-quality provider,” according to the statement.

Another major change was made to the methodology behind the best regional hospitals ratings. To be recognized, hospitals have to provide general medical and surgical procedures and receive at least six high performing ratings across the 17 procedures and conditions, or a national ranking in at least one of 11 adult specialties. They also have to receive at least three more high performing ratings than below average ratings across all procedures and conditions.

Consequently, 531 hospitals will be identified as best regional hospitals this year, compared to 563 last year, according to the statement.

U.S. News is just one of a handful of organizations that track and rank hospitals for their quality of services. Leapfrog and Healthgrades are other major players.

And while each lists’ methodology is often contested, hospitals covet a top spot that they can advertise to potential patients. Over the past five years, Mayo Clinic ranked in the top spot for best hospital overall.

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