For the love of death

The US News and World Report (USNWR) hospital rankings are out. It’s a great business for USNWR (part of the ranking gravy train they’ve run since they started rating colleges) but I doubt it will be of much help to patients, due to a weak methodology.

To be considered at all, hospitals have to be either a member of the Council of Teaching Hospitals, affiliated with a medical school, or have at least 6 of 13 advanced technologies available. That basically knocks community hospitals out of the competition right off the bat, which hardly seems fair.

Hospitals are ranked in 16 specialties. Twelve include so-called “hard data,” which for USNWR means mortality. Four specialites: ophtalmology, psychiatry, rehab and rheumatology are ranked on reputation alone. That’s because mortality isn’t a big part of the equation!

USNWR then includes the votes of physicians in different specialties and “other care-related factors” from an American Hospital Association survey.
So what we have is a system that combines discrimination against teaching hospitals with a physician popularity contest and crude measures of quality.

No thanks.

July 15, 2008

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