hospital rankings

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Harvard Health Care Blog Debut: How To Use Hospital Rankings


Click on your bookmarks tab, please, everyone. Announcing a new blog that looks very worth following: An Ounce of Evidence, featuring Dr. Ashish Jha, The C. Boyden Gray Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In his first package, Dr. Jha not only analyzes the recent harvest of hospital rankings from U.S. News and World Report, Consumer Reports and The Leapfrog Group. He also offers guest posts from some of the the rankers themselves, discussing what they do and why.

Dr. Ashish Jha (HSPH)

As health policy goes, the blog is shockingly readable (yes, that’s a left-handed compliment if ever there was one) and uses car-shopping as a helpful analogy. For example:

If you’re lucky enough to find a hospital that gets rated highly by all three organizations, I’d take that in a heartbeat. It’s like finding a car that drives well, looks stylish, is reliable, and safe! No brainer. Unfortunately, those hospitals are rare. In Boston, Massachusetts General Hospital was ranked the #1 hospital in the country by U.S. News. It got an “A” from Leapfrog. It was near the bottom of Massachusetts hospitals in the CR rating, receiving a score of just 45 out of 100.

It can be easy to decide if the safety, or the style, or the performance of a car is most important to you. Unfortunately, choosing what’s most important in health care can make us ask difficult and seemingly unreasonable questions. Is my primary goal to survive my hospitalization, avoid infections and medication errors, or have a reasonably good experience? Every individual has to decide what matters most. If a low mortality rate is most important, U.S. News is your best bet. If you care most about patient safety, then Leapfrog is the way to go. Consumer Reports emphasizes infections, unnecessary radiation and patient experience. If those matter most, CR is your best bet.

My personal list ranks mortality as most important (by far), followed by safety, with patient experience an important but distant third. Others will make different choices.

So why, I asked, is Dr. Jha, a prominent researcher and practicing physician, adding a blog to his very full plate? He explained: Continue reading