Best Hospitals 2010-2011: the Honor Roll

By Avery Comarow, U.S. News & World Report

The new U.S. News rankings showcase 14 hospitals with high scores in six or more specialties.

It's no secret that all hospitals are not equal. The special quality shared by the 152 that made it into the new 2010-11 Best Hospitals rankings (out of nearly 5,000 that were considered), and even more so by the 14 in this year's Honor Roll, is their ability to take on and meet the most difficult challenges. Their operating rooms showcase delicate, demanding procedures -- excising a cancerous portion of a pancreas without destroying the rest of the fragile organ, say, or restoring function to an arthritis-ravaged hand through a creative blend of fusing joints and splicing tendons. They are referral centers for ill patients with multiple risks -- advanced age plus heart failure plus diabetes, perhaps.

[Scroll down to see which 14 hospitals made U.S. News' Honor Roll]

Patients at these centers are not free from hospital-based infections or immune from getting the wrong drugs or becoming victims of other medical errors. No matter how skilled or deep their expertise, even "best hospitals" don't do everything right. But when the stakes are high, calling for unusual capabilities, there are hospitals that can save lives that might otherwise be lost or preserve quality of life that might otherwise be sacrificed. That is why U.S. News has published the Best Hospitals rankings for 21 years: to help guide patients who need high-stakes care because of the complexity or difficulty of their condition or procedure.

For 2010-11 we analyzed 4,852 hospitals, virtually every one in the United States, in 16 specialties from cancer and heart disease to respiratory disorders and urology. Only 152 centers appear in even one of the 16 specialty rankings. Fourteen ultra-elite Honor Roll hospitals had very high scores in six or more specialties.

In 12 of the 16 specialties, the quality of hospital care can determine life or death. Therefore the largest part of each hospital's score in those 12 specialties came from death rates and other hard data on patient safety, volume, and various care-related factors such as nursing and patient services. The rest of the score was derived from a reputational survey of specialists. The 50 highest scorers were ranked. Scores and complete data for another 1,740 un-ranked hospitals are also available. In the four other specialties -- ophthalmology, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and rheumatology -- hospitals were ranked on reputation alone. The number of deaths in these specialties is so low that mortality data and certain other categories of data are not relevant factors.

A detailed description of the analysis in the 12 specialties is available. In brief, death rate, care-related factors, and patient safety added up to slightly more than two-thirds of each hospital's score. The reputation portion of the score used responses from nearly 10,000 physicians, who were surveyed in 2008, 2009, and 2010 and asked to name five hospitals they consider among the best in their specialty for difficult cases, ignoring cost or location.

The Honor Roll requirements were so stiff that 99.7% of all centers in the nation were excluded. A hospital had to be ranked in at least six specialties, but ranking alone was insufficient for inclusion. It also had to have an extremely high score (in statisticians' terms, at least three standard deviations above the mean). That earned 1 point per specialty. Reaching the top of the Honor Roll called for even higher scores (4 or more standard deviations above the mean), earning 2 points, in far more specialties. The highest-ranked hospitals on the Honor Roll, which is ordered by points, had high scores in 15 of the 16 specialty rankings. Johns Hopkins stands at No. 1 -- as it has for the last 20 years.



No. 1:Johns Hopkins Hospital
Location: Baltimore, Md.
Points: 30
Specialties: 15

No. 2:Mayo Clinic
Location: Rochester, Minn.
Points: 28
Specialties: 15

No. 3:Massachusetts General Hospital
Location: Boston, Mass.
Points: 27
Specialties: 15

No. 4:Cleveland Clinic
Location: Cleveland, Ohio
Points: 26
Specialties: 13

No. 5:Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center
Location: Los Angeles, Calif.
Points: 24
Specialties: 14

No. 6:New York-Presbyterian Univ. Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
Location: New York, N.Y.
Points: 21
Specialties: 11

No. 7:Univ. of California, San Francisco Medical Center
Location: San Francisco, Calif.
Points: 20
Specialties: 11

No. 8:Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington Univ.
Location: St. Louis, Mo.
Points: 17
Specialties: 10

No. 9:Hospital of the Univ. of Pennsylvania
Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
Points: 16
Specialties: 12

No. 10:Duke Univ. Medical Center
Location: Durham, N.C.
Points: 16
Specialties: 10

No. 11:Brigham and Women's Hospital
Location: Boston, Mass.
Points: 14
Specialties: 10

No. 12:Univ. of Washington Medical Center
Location: Seattle, Wash.
Points: 14
Specialties: 8

No. 13:UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Location: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Points: 13
Specialties: 8

No. 14:University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers
Location: Ann Arbor, Mich.
Points: 12
Specialties: 8


Want to see more?
For complete coverage of this year's full rankings, check out:
2010-2011 U.S. News Best Hospitals
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