Reputation Has Greater Impact Than Quality in Hospital Rankings: Study
Researchers say that reputation often trumps the quality of care when it comes to hospital rankings.
A newly released study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine takes a critical look at the annual U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” rankings, which lists the top 50 hospitals in the nation in various fields. Researchers examined data used to compile the rankings and found that the hospitals holding the top slots were there based more on reputation than merit.
Dr. Ashwini R. Sehgal, a professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio, found that while the rankings were based in part on objective data, such as death rates, nurse-to-patient ratio and patient safety, it was the reputation scores given by other doctors that were the predominant decider as to which hospitals ranked highest. Dr. Sehgal said reputation trumped factual objective data in 100% of the publication’s top hospital picks for each specialty, and 91% of the time for the top 10 overall hospitals.
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Dr. Sehgal explained that the large amount of variation in the reputation scores, which are determined by interviewing top doctors in certain fields, means that the reputation scores have more of an affect on the final outcomes, because the objective data has far less variation.
“The relative standings of the top 50 hospitals largely reflect the subjective reputations of those hospitals,” Dr. Sehgal concluded. “Moreover, little relationship exists between subjective reputation and objective measures of hospital quality among the top 50 hospitals.”
Officials from U.S. News and World Report have said that the rankings have caught flack for giving reputation so much influence, and intend to scale down its effect on future rankings, according to a report by Bloomberg News. However, they say that reputation is an important overall piece of the hospital rankings that will not be removed entirely. The next annual hospital rankings results are due to be released in July. The news magazine has released the rankings for 20 years.
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