New ratings evaluate hospitals' delivery of 'common care'

Amid an already crowded--and sometimes controversial--field of hospital rankings, U.S. News & World Report has added a new form of evaluation that rates hospitals based on how well they handle five common medical conditions and procedures.

The Best Hospitals for Common Care ratings use 25 quality measures culled from Medicare data to rank about 4,000 hospitals in regard to how they perform heart bypass, hip replacement and knee replacement surgeries as well as treat congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, according to U.S. News.

For each procedure or condition, hospitals received ratings of either high performing, average or below average. "The good news for patients is that the majority of hospitals performed average or better," on these common procedures, Ben Harder, chief of health analysis for U.S. News, said in an announcement. Only 10 percent of hospitals who received ratings in each category were high performing, and another 10 percent were below average.

The ratings exclude, however, more than 1,700 hospitals that perform too few procedures of the common procedures. Those exclusions themselves may be a cause for concern, as hospitals that don't commonly perform certain procedures produce considerably poorer outcomes for these surgeries, according to a recent U.S. News analysis, a finding that spurred some teaching hospitals to restrict low-volume surgeries.

U.S. News' latest hospital rankings also take into account patients' health conditions, age, sex and socioeconomic status, the latter a factor that hospitals have complained can unfairly skew key quality metrics such as readmissions.

Further, in a frequently asked questions document, U.S. News says it uses "a broader array of quality indicators" to determine its new common care rankings compared to other popular hospital-evaluation systems, including Leapfrog, Healthgrades, Consumer Reports, the Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid's Hospital Compare websites. Hospital ratings have come under fire recently when a report noted their findings often sharply conflict with one another, FierceHealthcare has reported.

To learn more:
- explore the rankings
- read the article
- here's the announcement
- see the high-performing hospitals
- check out the FAQ

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