Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community

 

Hospital rankings

Do they really matter?

   

Stanford Hospital has again been recognized as one of the nation’s premier hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, earning a spot on its national honor roll. Stanford was one of only 20 hospitals in the nation to earn top honors for exceptional performance in specialized, complex patient care.

Of the nearly 5,000 hospitals nationwide, only 3 percent earned a national ranking in any specialty care area in the U.S. News survey. For 2016-17, Stanford Hospital achieved national recognition in 12 specialties, including cancer care; cardiology and heart surgery; diabetes and endocrinology; ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology and GI surgery; geriatrics; gynecology; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; orthopedics; rheumatology; and urology.

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford also received top honors in the U.S. News & World Report 2016–2017 Best Children’s Hospital survey, with rankings in all 10 pediatric specialties in the surveys. The Bay Area’s largest health care enterprise exclusively dedicated to children and expectant mothers earned Best Children’s Hospital Honor Roll status, making it the top-ranked children’s hospital in Northern California. Three of its specialty programs were ranked in the top 10 nationally: cardiology and heart surgery (no. 3), nephrology (no. 5) and pulmonology (no. 7). Cardiology and pulmonology medicine were rated the best programs on the West Coast.

Multiple surveys

The U.S. News Top Hospitals and Best Children’s Hospital surveys are just two of multiple health care surveys and scorecards in the marketplace intended to help consumers compare the quality of health care providers.

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010, other organizations, such as the Leapfrog Group, Consumer Reports and, most recently, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, have developed their own methods for compiling data to help patients make more informed decisions about their care. While there are other groups in the hospital rating business, the ratings and scores from these four organizations tend to get the most attention — and scrutiny — mostly because of how differently hospitals fare in each of the surveys.

   

For consumers to understand why some hospitals get an “A” in the Leapfrog Group ratings or are placed on the honor roll by U.S. News but get an abysmal score in a Consumer Reports survey, they need to dig deeper into the methodology. Many of the ratings groups use Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, which publishes 100 different sets of data about hospitals, including mortality rates, infection rates and the results of patient satisfaction surveys, as their foundation. Beyond that, however, each group uses different types of data, different collection methods, different quality measures and different indexing, weighting and aggregating of data to develop their own unique methodology for creating their rankings.

Only part of the picture

External rankings provide only a partial view of a hospital’s overall performance. Many of these surveys and report cards measure only a small subset of procedures and conditions, making it extremely difficult to determine a hospital’s overall quality.

If a hospital does well or poorly on hospital-acquired infections and treating heart failure patients — two conditions that are commonly measured — that doesn’t necessarily mean it does a great job with cancer treatment or a heart transplant. What often matters most to patients with those conditions is the oncologist, the surgeon and the care team, not the hospital and its ranking.

When choosing where to go for care, patients should take into consideration the full spectrum of recognitions and distinctions a hospital has received. Rankings and ratings can provide useful information, as long as patients do their homework, recognize limitations of rankings and, of course, talk to their doctor and care team. A good understanding of the data can help patients get the information they need to ultimately make the most informed health care choices.

To find out more about Stanford Health Care’s awards and recognitions, go to stanfordhealthcare.org/about-us/awards.html.

To find out more about Stanford Children’s Health and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, go to stanfordchildrens.org.

To check the performance of a local hospital, go to the government’s Medicare Hospital Compare website at medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html.

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