U.S. News picks 'Best Hospitals'

Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital is back on top of the U.S. News & World Report annual best hospitals list, reclaiming the No. 1 spot it held from 1991 through 2011, the publication announced. The publisher analyzed about 5,000 hospitals and named 18 to an "honor roll" because they ranked near the top of at least six specialties.

Rounding out the top three are Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The U.S. News rankings also list the top hospitals in each of 16 medical specialties, as well as the best hospitals in each city or state.

"Patient survival and safety data, the adequacy of nurse staffing levels and other objective data largely determined the rankings in most specialties," Avery Comarow, U.S. News' editor said in today's announcement.

Reputation remains important to making the best-hospital list--a hospital's reputation among physicians largely affects its ranking at 32.5 percent of the overall score. Moreover, for the ophthalmology, psychiatry, rehabilitation and rheumatology specialties, hospital rankings are based on reputation only, according to the methodology.

The U.S. News rankings have received criticism for using subjective, reputation-based data to rank 25 percent of specialties, however. And the small number of quality indicators used to assess the other 75 percent, according to a May study from Comparion Medical Analytics, is among the flaws in the rankings' criteria that could mislead and confuse consumers about hospitals' quality of care.

The fact that there are many different public and private groups that rate hospitals--including The Joint Commission, U.S. NewsConsumer Reports, and the Leapfrog Group--that often produce wildly varying hospital quality assessments has also raised questions about the value of such rankings, FierceHealthcare has previously reported.

For more:
- here's the announcement
- check out the methodology