U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking of “best hospitals” excludes some top hospitals for heart attack care, according to a study in yesterday’s Archives of Internal Medicine, reports AHA News Now. Researchers at Yale University School of Medicine compared 30-day mortality rates for heart attack patients at 50 hospitals ranked best for “heart and heart surgery” by the magazine in 2003 with similar patients at more than 3,800 other hospitals. While admission to a ranked hospital was associated with lower mortality on average, nearly three times as many non-ranked hospitals performed as well, the study found. An accompanying editorial notes that most hospital rating systems “seem to do a reasonable job at identifying groups of hospitals that perform well on average, yet there is considerable uncertainty regarding the true performance of a particular hospital.” Thus, the authors suggest that the true value of the public information is to spur enhanced quality improvement efforts rather than to provide a solid foundation for consumer choice.
Abstract: Identifying High-Quality Hospitals, Arch Intern Med. 2007;167:1342-1344.