HealthGrades defends its best hospital list

HealthGrades has identified what it calls three major flaws in a recent study published in the Archives of Surgery that finds its 50 best hospital list "falls short."

The findings of a journal article are fundamentally flawed and could undermine patients ability to find high quality hospital care, according to HealthGrades. The article, Evaluating Popular Media and Internet-Based Hospital Quality Ratings for Cancer Surgery, compared outcomes for gastrointestinal cancer patients who underwent surgery at hospitals on HealthGrades’ “America’s 50 Best Hospitals” and US News and World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” lists. The study asserts that hospitals with the best outcomes for three surgical procedures were often not among those listed as top performers by HealthGrades and US News. HealthGrades America’s 50 Best Hospital designation is based on patient outcomes across 27 common medical procedures and diagnoses and is intended to reflect a broad spectrum of clinical excellence in patient care.  

[See also: HealthGrades ranks top 50 hospitals for 2011.]

“While we’re encouraged by the study authors’ attempts to help patients find accurate quality information, in this case this study may have the opposite effect and might actually discourage patients from getting the information they need to make critically important health care decisions,” said  Rick May, HealthGrades vice president, Accelerated Clinical Excellence. “More than 10 million patients a month visit looking for information on hospitals and doctors and they trust us to provide the most accurate information on health care quality. We take that responsibility seriously and that’s why, for the last decade, we have conducted the most rigorous statistical analyses of hospital quality in America. We stand firmly behind the accuracy of our hospital ratings, including our list of America’s 50 Best Hospitals.”

HealthGrades identified major flaws in the methodology upon which the Archives of Surgery study findings are based.