Most socially responsible hospitals pay CEOs less than average, analysis finds

Of more than 3,600 hospitals, 54—a dozen fewer than in 2022—were ranked as the most socially responsible by the Lown Institute in the fourth year of rankings.

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. This year marks the first time that Medicare Advantage claims have been included, in addition to Medicare claims, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services hospital cost reports, tax returns and other data.

“Good hospitals make their patients healthier, but socially responsible hospitals make their communities healthier too,” Vikas Saini, M.D., president of the Lown Institute, said in a press release. “These are the hospitals America needs right now—hospitals that can set and achieve ambitious goals for serving their entire community.”

Hospitals on the honor roll earned an “A” grade across three major categories: equity, value and outcomes. It is the only annual ranking to integrate racial inclusivity, community investment and pay equity with traditional outcomes measures, the Lown Institute claims. 

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

1.     Duke Regional Hospital (Durham, North Carolina)

2.     UC Health Greeley (Greeley, Colorado)

3.     Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas (Austin, Texas)

4.     UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies (Loveland, Colorado)

5.     Tristar Horizon Medical Center (Dickson, Tennessee)

6.     St. Luke's University Hospital - Bethlehem Campus (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)

7.     Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Pflugerville (Pflugerville, Texas)

8.     Denver Health & Hospital Authority (Denver, Colorado)

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

10.  Mission Hospital McDowell (Marion, North Carolina)

In its analysis, the Lown Institute found that top performance on social responsibility measures doesn’t require “excessive” CEO pay. Overall, 70% of “honor roll” hospitals with 2020 data available paid their executives less than average compared to hospitals of similar size. 

For instance, Duke Regional’s CEO earned about $700,000. By contrast, the CEO of UNC Health Southeastern, another hospital in the same state, received $1.24 million, though the hospital ranked 3,350th on the ranking. 

Trade groups representing hospitals, including the American Hospital Association, have opposed the Lown Institute rankings in the past, claiming that such analyses are based on data that are incomplete and lack important clinical and methodological details.