Ranking America's Hospitals
Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic Top List
July 12, 2002 -- For the 12th year in a row, Johns Hopkins University tops the list of the nation's premier hospitals, as determined by the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of "America's Best Hospitals."
The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles rounded out the list's top five institutions.
The magazine also ranks the top institutions in 17 different specialty areas ranging from cancer to urology.
In compiling the list, researchers combined data on the hospital's reputation among doctors within each specialty, death rates, and other factors such as the number of registered nurses per bed, access to the latest technology, and volume of patients.
But what does it mean to be the best in providing services that most people hope they never have to use?
Toby Gordon, vice president of planning and marketing for Johns Hopkins Medicine, says 75% of their patients come from the Baltimore area, and these rankings really mean more to people who are seeking treatment for very serious or rare conditions.
"It helps make people more savvy healthcare consumers," Gordon tells WebMD. "Historically, patients just went where their doctors told them to go. But over time, these rankings help people tune into the fact that there are highly trained specialists who can treat their problem."
John Clough, MD, director of health affairs at The Cleveland Clinic, says these types of rankings are most useful in providing information for people who need care for complex conditions, such as cancer or heart disease, where the skill of the doctor can make a difference.
"If it's a once-in-a-lifetime procedure, and it's got to be done right, you might want to travel a bit farther [to a top-ranked institution] to get it done," Clough tells WebMD. "But traveling to Cleveland to get your tonsils out doesn't make much sense."
In addition, several recent studies have shown that hospitals that see more patients tend to do better in performing certain types of surgery.
"Practice makes perfect," says Clough. "In surgery, people who do it more often tend to do better."
He says the list raises the profile of the hospitals included and brings a steady stream of out-of-town as well as international patients. But that doesn't necessarily make the hospitals more exclusive or harder to get into.
Clough says The Cleveland Clinic, like many other institutions included on the list, is constantly expanding to meet the growing demand for its services. In fact, it's building a new cardiac care facility to accommodate the rising number of heart patients that come in for treatment, thanks to the institution's No. 1 ranking in the heart and heart surgery specialty area.