Top hospital ratings often misleading, incomplete

Although U.S. News & World Report just named the "best" children's hospitals, perhaps healthcare consumers should broaden their search. That's because "top hospitals" featured in popular media-based ratings systems may not actually have better results than other medical facilities, concludes a study in the Archives of Surgery.

Hospital rankings of surgical quality on the Internet or in magazines like the U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Hospitals" and HealthGrades "Best Hospitals" fail to identify other high-volume hospitals of equal quality, the study notes.

At first glance, hospitals listed in these commercially available ratings systems had lower mortality rates after three kinds of cancer surgery than other U.S. hospitals.

Yet, after researchers adjusted for hospital volume, the top 50 hospitals compiled by U.S. News were only better for just one of the procedures--colon surgery. And surgery results were no better at HealthGrades best hospitals for any of the three cancer surgeries than at other higher-volume hospitals that didn't make the list.

Such selective hospital ratings don't present patients all their options, ultimately hurting their ability to make informed decisions about where to receive care.

For more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the Reuters article