US News and World Report just announced the 2012 listings of the best hospitals. There is a big hoohah going on about this year's listings as Mass General has replaced Johns Hopkins as the best hospital in the country for the first time. The listings starting in 1990 and JH led the list for 21 years. Well, yip-dee-doo-dah! What does this really mean?
Seriously? If a book is the top seller they can quantify this by looking at the numbers of copies sold. But how do you do this for hospitals? Obviously you can look at death rates, ratios of nurses to patients, readmission rates, etc.
US News states:
"Best Hospitals' central mission remains unchanged: to help those who need
an unusual degree of skilled inpatient care decide where to get it,
especially when there's time to make a choice. Other ratings and
rankings typically examine how well hospitals perform fairly routine
procedures, such as hernia repair and uncomplicated heart bypass
surgery, and how successfully they manage relatively unthreatening
conditions such as mild heart failure. That's fine for most hospital
patients—in any given year, hardly anyone who visits a hospital spends a
single night there. (There are about 20 outpatient visits for every
hospital admission.) But for patients whose surgery or other care poses a
technical challenge, or whose age, physical condition, or infirmities
multiply the risk, good may not be good enough."
They then go on to talk about number of procedures, teaching hospitals, and more. I am not sure that I would switch hospitals based on a magazine article. Where I am treated is #7 in the state. There are six better hospitals in Boston but that involves traffic, expensive parking, breaking in new doctors, finding my way to different departments with out a road map, and all sorts of other complications.
Maybe if another icky cancer showed up, I might stop by the top rated cancer hospital and see if they have anything life saving to tell me that my #7 hospital is too far in the suburbs to know.