Massachusetts General Hospital moved into the No. 1 spot on the 2012-13 U.S. News & World Report rankings of best hospitals in America last week, the first time in the 23-year history of the survey that the institution has received the distinction. Nine of Harvard Medical School’s 16 affiliates were recognized for excellence in this year’s U.S. News surveys, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Mass General, McLean Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.
Mass General, the largest teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, has traditionally ranked among the top hospitals in the nation since the survey began in 1990, but this year was the first time the 950-bed medical center unseated Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, which has held the top position for the past 21 years. To be nationally ranked, a hospital must excel across a range of tough cases within a given specialty, and the survey ranks hospitals in 16 different care specialties, according to the magazine.
“This recognition is a tribute to the more than 23,000 staff members at Mass General who are dedicated to delivering the highest quality care to patients and families. Our employees are the ones who have built and shaped Mass General into the extraordinary health care resource it has been for the past 200 years and will continue to be into the future,” said Mass General Hospital President Peter L. Slavin.
(A detailed list of the rankings, including the methodology used by U.S. News, is available at www.usnews.com/besthospitals.)
Brigham and Women’s Hospital ranked No. 9 overall on this year’s Honor Roll because of its national rankings in 13 specialties, including cancer care, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, ear, nose and throat, gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, pulmonology, orthopedics, urology and rheumatology. It shared its No. 5 cancer specialty ranking with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and was also ranked as high performing in psychiatry.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center was also named a leading hospital in Boston and the nation, ranking nationally in three adult specialties, including cancer, gastroenterology, and diabetes and endocrinology, which was shared with the Joslin Diabetes Center. It was also ranked as high performing in eight additional specialties, including cardiology and heart surgery, geriatrics, nephrology, pulmonology, gynecology, ear, nose & throat, neurology and neurosurgery and urology.
Mass General was highly ranked in all 16 specialty areas surveyed, including cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, ear, nose and throat, gastroenterology, geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, ophthalmology, orthopedics, psychiatry, pulmonology, rehabilitation, rheumatology and urology.
McLean Hospital was ranked No. 2 in the nation for psychiatry and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital claimed the No. 5 spot for top rehabilitation hospitals in the country, while the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary was ranked No. 3 in the country for ear, nose and throat, and No. 4 in ophthalmology.
On a separate list published in June, Boston Children’s Hospital claimed the No. 1 spot for excellence in pediatric care. Pediatric hospitals were evaluated for the care delivered in 10 specialties, including cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and urology.
While its position at No. 1 on the magazine's Honor Roll marks a milestone for Mass General and is a testament to the quality of its staff, it is also important to keep the survey in perspective, said David F. Torchiana, CEO and chairman of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization.
“Our competition is not other hospitals,” Torchiana said. “Rather our competition is disease, health care costs, accessibility of services, and social issues such as poverty, violence and substance abuse that affect the well-being of the community. Like every hospital, we strive to be the best we can be so that we can help solve these difficult problems. The U.S. News ‘Best Hospitals’ survey is a valuable tool that helps us measure how we are doing.”
The rankings are based largely on “objective measures of hospital performance, such as patient survival rates, and structural resources, such as nurse staffing levels,” according to the magazine. Each hospital’s reputation, as determined by a survey of physician specialists, also factors into the ranking. This year, the magazine placed a little less emphasis on the reputation scoring, and more on other measures, such as mortality rates, nurse-to-patient ratios, and use of advanced technologies.
Slavin said any kind of ranking should be “taken with a grain of salt since it’s an imperfect science.”
In addition to being a leader in clinical care and widely recognized as a leading teaching hospital, Mass General conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the U.S., with an annual research budget of more than $750 million. Founded in 1811, it is the largest nongovernment employer in Boston.