Hospitals all over the country often compete to be listed as a “top hospital”, or to be named to the “hospital honor roll.” Evaluations of hospitals are proliferating, giving patients unprecedented insight into data that they can use when choosing where to go for care. The lists are put out by non-profits and professional organizations alike, both on a state and national level, and can lead to more recognition, more patients, and more money.
According to Kaiser Health News, though, these ratings can sometimes provide as much confusion as clarity. Each organization uses their own methodology to rank facilities, sometimes resulting in wildly different conclusions. St. Mary Mercy Linovia Hospital in Michigan, for example, was given an “A” by The Leapfrog Group, a respected nonprofit that promotes patient safety. The company Healthgrades named it one of America's best 50 hospitals. But the Joint Commission and U.S. News and World Report omitted St. Mary from their best hospital lists due to high readmission rates and what they deemed to be excessive tests.
The process of ranking hospitals is still in its infancy and the quality of the data is rudimentary. Some agencies are also shifting their criteria as the Affordable Care Act changes the focus from procedural based rating to quality based ratings. This could lead the ranking systems to get more confusing before they equal out.
For a fee, most ratings can be used in hospital promotional materials. Others can be viewed online, which is important in an age where the internet is the first research step. While the debate over the ratings scales will continue, most hospitals still aspire to be on the various lists.