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America's Top Hospitals

Best Hospitals' Survival Rates 12-20% Higher, Study Says
WebMD Health News

Life-And-Death Implications

Jan. 24, 2005 -- Of all the hospitals in America, which ones are best? According to a new study, 229 hospitals stand out, earning a "Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence."

The awards come from HealthGrades, an independent organization focused on health care quality. For the third straight year, HealthGrades has identified the top five percent of U.S. hospitals for clinical quality.

For the complete list, click here.

Nearly 5,000 hospitals nationwide were considered. The rankings are based on death and complication rates of Medicare patients hospitalized from 2001-2003 for 28 common procedures and diagnoses including heart attack, stroke, heart bypass, pneumonia, hip replacement, gastrointestinal problems, and back and neck surgery.

For four of the most common conditions and treatments -- heart attack, stroke, community acquired pneumonia, and heart bypass surgery -- survival rates were 12-20% better at the distinguished hospitals than at an average American hospital.

Here's how those survival rates compared:


  • Stroke: 15.4% better at awarded hospitals
  • Community-acquired pneumonia: 19.55% better at awarded hospitals
  • Coronary (heart) bypass surgery: 15.3% better at awarded hospitals
  • Heart attack: 12.6% better at awarded hospitals


The heart attack rate was based on hospitals using angioplasty and stent treatments to reopen blood vessels.

Life-And-Death Implications

To put those percentages in real-world terms, imagine an average-sized crowd at an NFL football game -- nearly 53,000 people. That's how many lives could have been saved if all Medicare patients hospitalized for those four problems had gone to top-ranked hospitals, says HealthGrades.

Distinguished hospitals treated more Medicare patients than average hospitals. Their Medicare patients were often in worse condition than those at average hospitals. The awards included 126 teaching hospitals, which have at least one resident or were connected to an approved medical teaching program for at least one year of the study.

Best, Worst Regions

Geography mattered. Some regions had an abundance of awarded hospitals, while some states had none.

The Great Lakes region had the highest concentration of top-ranked hospitals, based on the 2000 U.S. census. There was one distinguished hospital for every 773,181 residents in that region, which included Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

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