Confused by the many hospital rankings? Here's how they all work.

In the last month alone, several big-name groups have released their lists of top U.S. hospitals. But, each rating system considers different data, so it can be hard for hospitals to understand how they can improve their scores.

Is your hospital a 'top hospital'? Probably.

The Daily Briefing has compiled a list of five of the most popular hospital ranking and rating systems, categorized them by the factors they consider—care processes, outcomes, patient experience, or reputation—and identified the relevant datasets.

Consumer Reports

Focuses on processes and outcomes

  • The scope of the rankings: Thousands of hospitals are rated, although no list of top hospital is created based on those ratings.

  • The type of data used:
    • Readmissions;
    • Hospital-acquired conditions;
    • CT scan overuse;
    • Communication about new medications and discharge;
    • Complications; and
    • 30-day patient mortality rates for patients with pneumonia, heart attack, and heart failure, as well as patients who undergo surgery.
  • The sources of the data:
    • CMS;
    • CDC;
    • State inpatient databases; and
    • American Hospital Association (AHA) annual survey.


Focuses on processes, outcomes, and patient experience

  • The scope of the rankings: Healthgrades' "Best Hospitals" lists honor hospitals on two levels: The 50 Best Hospitals and the 100 Best Hospitals. The rankings build on the organization's 2015 Distinguished Awards of Clinical Excellence, which recognize the top 5% of hospitals in the country.

  • The type of data used:
    • Mortality and complication rates for at least 21 out of 32 procedures and conditions;
    • Application of software;
    • Patient safety incidents ; and
    • Data on patient experience.
  • The sources of the data:
    • HCAHPS survey scores;
    • CMS claims data; and
    • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reports.

Joint Commission

Focuses on outcomes and process

  • The scope of the rankings: The Joint Commission identifies more than 1,000 "Top Performing" hospitals.

  • The type of data used:
    • Accountability measures of evidence-based care, including
      • Heart attack;
      • Heart failure;
      • Pneumonia;
      • Surgical care;
      • Children's asthma;
      • Psychiatric services;
      • Stroke;
      • Venous thromboembolism;
      • Immunization; and
      • Perinatal care.
  • The sources of the data:
    • 46 pre-designated Joint Commission accountability measures linked to positive patient outcomes.

The Leapfrog Group

Focuses on processes and outcomes

  • The scope of the rankings: The Leapfrog Group identifies about 100 "Top Hospitals," based in part of their performance on the group's Hospital Safety Scores.

  • The type of data used:
    • Hospital resources;
    • Patient outcomes; and
    • Management practices, including hand hygiene, ICU staffing, and medication reconciliation.
  • The sources of the data:
    • Leapfrog Hospital Survey;
    • CDC;
    • CMS;
    • AHRQ; and
    • AHA annual survey.

U.S. News & World Report

Focuses on outcomes, processes, and reputation

  • The scope of the rankings: U.S. News ranks hospitals on 16 individual specialty lists. In addition, about 20 hospitals per year are named to the magazine's "Honor Roll," which recognizes top performance across six or more specialties.

  • The type of data used:
    • Mortality rate;
    • Volume;
    • Technology;
    • Nurse-patient ratios; and
    • Hospital environment.
  • The sources of the data:
    • AHA annual survey;
    • National Cancer Institute; and
    • CMS Medicare Provider Analysis and Review.

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