Top-ranked U.S. News & World hospitals do not excel in equity, new Lown report says

Of more than 3,600 hospitals, 66—less than 2%—were designated as the most socially responsible in the latest rankings put out by the Lown Institute. 

The healthcare think tank launched its Hospitals Index for Social Responsibility in 2020 in an attempt to provide benchmarks for hospitals on how well they serve communities. It relies on Medicare claims, CMS hospital cost reports, tax returns and other sources of data to conduct its analysis.

Hospitals with the top designation this year earned “A” grades across 53 metrics on equity, value and outcomes like racial inclusivity of patients, employee pay equity and avoidance of unnecessary procedures.

“Citizens put their lives and billions of tax dollars in the hands of America’s hospitals,” Vikas Saini, M.D., president of the Lown Institute, said in a press release. “We believe communities should have high expectations and the most socially responsible institutions should be lifted up as models for the system.” 

Similar to past Lown rankings, “U.S. News & World Report” top-ranked “Honor Roll” hospitals did not do well in this ranking, with none of the top 20 landing in Lown’s top 100. Though most performed well on outcomes, they fell short on equity.

The 10 most socially responsible hospitals, according to the Lown Institute: 

  1. Adventist Health Howard Hospital (Willits, CA) 

  2. Duke Regional Hospital (Durham, NC) 

  3. Tristar Horizon Medical Center (Dickson, TN)  

  4. Boston Medical Center (Boston, MA) 

  5. Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (Salinas, CA) 

  6. Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center (Gresham, OR)  

  7. Banner University Medical Center South Campus (Tucson, AZ) 

  8. Saint Alphonsus Medical Center - Nampa (Nampa, ID) 

  9. Saint Alphonsus Medical Center - Ontario (Ontario, OR) 

  10. Denver Health & Hospital Authority (Denver, CO)

Of the most socially responsible hospitals, 15 were also found to have experienced significant COVID-19 burden, defined as having 26 or more weeks with at least 10% of beds filled with COVID patients during the first year of the pandemic. 

“Achieving the trifecta of great outcomes, value, and equity is hard—especially under the pressures of a global pandemic,” Saini said in the press release. “Hospitals that met the unprecedented challenges of COVID while staying committed to their social mission should be very, very proud.” 

Trade groups representing hospitals have historically opposed the Lown Institute rankings. Earlier this year, when the think tank called surgeries performed during the pandemic potentially dangerous to patients, the American Hospital Association argued that delayed care could have bad consequences. In the past, it has also claimed that Lown analyses are based on data that are incomplete.