The best hospitals of 2015-2016

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Nearly 100,000 Americans are hospitalized each day. That adds up to nearly 40 million hospitalizations per year. With so many lives at stake and so many opportunities to hone their care, hospitals could be expected to meet demanding quality standards. After all, manufacturing, commercial aviation and other major industries have achieved high degrees of consistency and safety.

But health care is different. Some hospitals excel in treating exceedingly difficult cases, while others too often fail even patients whose medical needs are relatively straightforward. As a result, health care consumers need to take care when they choose a hospital. To help patients make smart, well-informed choices, U.S. News has published annual hospital rankings for more than two and a half decades. These rankings and the quality data from which they're derived highlight hospitals that perform best in specific areas of care.

The focus of the Best Hospitals rankings has long been on meeting the needs of the most challenging and medically complex patients. These patients represent cases where the stakes are greatest – often a matter of life or death – and where, for some patients, it makes sense to venture beyond a trusted community hospital to seek care at a truly exceptional medical center. With these patients in mind, U.S. News today published its 2015-16 national rankings, which cover complex care in 16 medical and surgical specialties.

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The best hospitals of 2015-2016
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Top-ranked hospitals include University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston (No. 1 in the nation in Cancer), the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio (No. 1 nationally in Cardiology & Heart Surgery) and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, New York (No. 1 in Orthopedics). They also include 15 hospitals that ranked among the top 20 nationally in at least half a dozen different specialties, earning them each a berth on the Best Hospitals Honor Roll. Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston topped that list.

Best Regional Hospitals

In all, just 137 hospitals – less than 3 percent of all of those in the nation – earned a national ranking in at least one specialty. But while those medical centers stand above the rest in providing complex specialty care, they aren't the only ones deserving of patients' attention.

In fact, most patients face relatively common ailments and may be served equally well or better by a hospital that makes treating patients like them its bread and butter. They can often find such a hospital within their community and -- importantly for their pocketbooks -- within the network of hospitals covered by their insurance plans.

Consequently, the U.S. News Best Regional Hospitals rankings for 2015-16 are based only in part on which hospitals earned national rankings. The regional rankings also take into account how each hospital performed in five areas of common care, including hip and knee replacement surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart failure and the chronic lung disease COPD.

More than 200 of the Best Regional Hospitals -- out of 520 regionally ranked hospitals in all -- earned that distinction solely on the basis of their high performance in multiple areas of common care. Such hospitals sometimes refer complex cases elsewhere so that their clinicians are free to focus on taking care of the patients they do treat.

The greatest concentrations of standout regional hospitals lie in the New York metro area, where New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell ranked first among 120 general medical and surgical hospitals in greater New York City. In the Los Angeles metro area, where U.S. News evaluated 100 such hospitals, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center ranked No. 1 in the region. In Chicago, a third crowded market, Northwestern Memorial Hospital ranked first in the metro area.

For patients and their physicians, these rankings provide only a starting point. Individual diagnosis and personal priorities will dictate the best choice for them. With the latest U.S. News hospital-quality data at their fingertips, they can make those choices with greater confidence.

More from U.S. News:
Slideshow: The Honor Roll of Best Hospitals 2015-16
Slideshow: Which Practitioner Do I See, and When?
When Insurance Denies Your Hospital Upgrade

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