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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Who ranks the rankings?

Another week, another “Best Hospitals” list – isn’t that how it’s starting to seem?

First The Leapfrog Group sent many hospitals into a tizzy with its patient safety scorecard, complete with letter grades, then the Most Wired list came out, then Consumer Reports waded into the fray with its first-ever hospital safety ratings, and now U.S. News & World Report is back with a statistically spruced-up new edition of its venerable Best Hospitals list.

Pretty soon, we’re going to need a list telling us which “Best Hospitals” lists are best.

According to this HealthLeaders piece, U.S. New & World Report has tweaked its algorithm, giving “less weight to a hospital’s reputation. Instead, more weight is given to hospital data that is publicly available and less subjective, such as information collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.”

That’s all well and good, and I do like the fact that the magazine included sections for specific specialties. But at this point do we really need another list based largely on the same set of government data? And isn’t the fact that so many of these things exist an indictment of Hospital Compare as a tool that consumers might actually use to, well, compare hospitals? If it were easy to use and widely known we might not need to deal with this avalanche of lists, ratings, and report cards.

And an avalanche it is. Whenever another list comes out, my inbox fills up with press releases from virtually every hospital on it. I don’t fault hospitals for their enthusiasm – it’s a competitive environment out there, and there’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn once in a while. My fear is that consumers will be overwhelmed by so much data coming at them from different directions and – like me with the press releases – end up ignoring all of it.

The lists may not be perfect (for example, I’d be well pleased if US. News dropped “reputation” from its calculations entirely), but most contain solid data that could help consumers make informed choices about their care. I have a feeling, though, that the main beneficiaries of these lists are the PR departments of the hospitals lucky enough to be on them.