For the first time, U.S. News has ranked hospitals in America's 52 largest metropolitan areas.
Some Americans are fortunate enough to live down the street from a world-class hospital. For them, where to go for highly skilled care is clear.
For most of us, though, finding a hospital that offers both excellent care and local convenience has long been a challenge. Healthcare consumers have faced a dearth of reliable information about how the hospitals near them stack up. The problem is most acute in large metropolitan areas, which are crowded with hospitals that offer varying degrees of expertise across a range of medical specialties.
In principle, going to a renowned medical center such as one of the nationally ranked U.S. News Best Hospitals is a solid option. But that could be difficult if it requires travel, expensive if not covered by insurance, and unnecessary except in the most challenging medical cases. No wonder most hospital patients stay close to home.
To take a bite out of their guesswork, U.S. News tapped its latest annual evaluation of the nation's nearly 5,000 hospitals and, for the first time ever, ranked the best ones in the 52 U.S. metropolitan areas with 1 million or more residents. Today's release of those rankings represents the largest expansion of U.S. News Best Hospitals since the annual rankings began more than two decades ago.
To find the best hospital nearby, you now simply need to check out the ranked hospitals in your metro area. The top five hospitals in the five largest metro areas are listed below.
New York City
Don't see your city? Click here to see the rest of the top-ranked hospitals.
The metro-area rankings take into account whether a hospital is among the best nationally in any medical specialty and also whether the hospital performs well in just one specialty, several, or many. (Read how the metro-area hospitals were ranked.)
If you need care in a particular specialty out of the 16 covered by the rankings, consider not only each hospital's overall rank in its metro area but also whether it is high-performing in that specialty. After all, a Best Hospital is only the right hospital if it excels in the kind of care you need.
How U.S. News Ranked the Best Hospitals in 52 Metro Areas
Factors include a hospital's breadth of expertise and whether it's among the nation's best.
Atlanta's Emory University Hospital is among the nation's elite medical centers. It is one of only 152 of the country's 4,852 hospitals to be named a U.S. News Best Hospital in even a single specialty in the 2010-11 national rankings. And while most of the 152 are ranked in just a few of the 16 specialties that Best Hospitals covers, Emory is ranked in 11.
Fifteen minutes away, on the other side of the Northeast Expressway, Piedmont Hospital is less well known. Nevertheless, it is among the best hospitals in the Atlanta area. Newly expanded U.S. News rankings of hospitals in the 52 most-populous metropolitan areas show that, in 11 specialties, Piedmont offers Atlantans high-quality care. In those specialties, which include cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, and orthopedics, its performance puts it above most other hospitals that are not nationally ranked.
Piedmont is among 622 metro-area hospitals now recognized by U.S. News. The new rankings, the largest expansion of Best Hospitals to date, offer patients and their families a much better chance of finding a top-performing hospital in their health insurance network. And for patients who would need to travel to visit a nationally ranked hospital, the metro rankings may offer a local alternative—or several.
Some patients need every bit of skill medicine has to offer—to operate successfully on an invasive brain tumor or to remove a portion of the delicate pancreas, for example. But while such patients number in the millions, they represent a small percentage of hospital admissions. The metro rankings were created for the majority of patients, whose care may not demand the special expertise found at a nationally ranked Best Hospital. The added centers boast a strong record of high performance for most conditions and procedures in one or more specialties.
The new rankings derive from the Best Hospitals methodology and data that produced the 2010-11 national rankings. All of the 4,852 U.S. hospitals were whittled down to much smaller groups by specialty—898 in cancer and 1,598 in orthopedics, for instance—that met stringent benchmarks such as a minimum number of certain types of serious cases. The top 25 percent of hospitals in each specialty that met those standards were identified, using the scoring methods employed in the national rankings. Out of those 25 percent, hospitals within metropolitan areas with populations of 1 million or more were ranked in their metro area.
The rankings were ordered first by a hospital's number of nationally ranked specialties and then by the number of other specialties in which it was among the top 25 percent nationally. A hospital's ranking within a specialty did not play a part; a No. 1 national ranking in urology carried no more weight than a No. 35, for instance.
Within a metro area, a hospital that is nationally ranked even in one specialty was listed above others that are high-performing in multiple specialties but not nationally ranked in any of them. This way a patient who might need the type of care in which the nationally ranked hospital excels will be less likely to overlook it in favor of a hospital with broader but shallower expertise.
Consequently, the No. 1 hospital in a metro area is not necessarily the best in town for all patients. Other hospitals may outshine it in various specialties. We expect that savvy consumers will consider not merely a hospital’s overall rank in the metro area, but its expertise in the specialty relevant to their care.
Of the 152 nationally ranked Best Hospitals, 132 are in one of the selected metro areas. In addition to those 132, the metro area rankings include 490 other centers that are in the top 25 percent in one or more specialties.
Several hundred hospitals scored in the top 25 percent nationally in one or more specialties but are not in one of the selected metro areas. While not ranked, these hospitals are recognized on their U.S. News Web page as high-performing in those areas of care.
Children's hospitals are not included in the new rankings; few metro areas have more than one or two, making consumers' decisions easier.
The metro-area rankings will be updated in July 2011, when the 2011-12 national rankings are published online.