Do you wonder how well your hospital stacks up against others in your area? This month, U.S. News & World Report unveiled its new system Best Hospitals for Common Care ratings,  an analysis of hospital quality nationwide aimed to help patients find the best hospitals for routine care. The new system evaluates nearly every hospital in the country  on five common surgical procedures and medical conditions that account for millions of hospitalizations every year.

U.S. News developed the new ratings to help patients easily identify hospitals in their communities that excel in treating common conditions. Patients can look up any U.S. hospital to see how it rates in three common operations – heart bypass, hip replacement and knee replacement – and two widespread chronic conditions – congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. A hospital may be rated as “High Performing,” “Average” or “Below Average.”

Approximately 90 percent of the hospitals rated in each condition or procedure were High Performing or Average. Hospitals were not rated in a procedure or condition if they treated too few patients of that type for U.S. News to conduct a rigorous statistical analysis.

U.S. News’ analysis of the data also found:

  • Approximately 10 percent of the hospitals rated in each condition or procedure were High Performing, meaning their quality measures were statistically better than the national average. Another 10 percent were statistically below average.

  • More than 700 hospitals were rated High Performing in at least one procedure or condition.

  • More than 700 hospitals were rated Below Average in one or more procedures or conditions. In each surgical procedure, a Below Average rating was associated with a mortality rate approximately twice the national average.

  • Thirty-four hospitals earned High Performing ratings in all five procedures and conditions. Another six hospitals that do not offer heart bypass surgery earned High Performing ratings in all of the other four categories.

  • More than 1,700 hospitals treated too few patients to be rated in certain procedures or conditions. Patients treated in these very-low-volume hospitals fared worse than similar patients treated elsewhere. For example, mortality among hip patients undergoing surgery at unrated hospitals was more than 60 percent higher than among patients at all rated hospitals.

“The choice of hospital can be life-changing even for relatively routine surgery. Hospitals can differ greatly in quality, and excelling in one area doesn’t guarantee that a hospital excels in other areas,” said Ben Harder, chief of health analysis for U.S. News. “The good news for patients is that the majority of hospitals performed average or better.”

“It’s important for patients, in consultation with their doctors, to be able to research a hospital and know the hospital has treated a sufficient number of patients like them,” said Harder. “Our Best Hospitals for Common Care ratings give patients access to more information and help them make more-informed choices among the hospitals in their communities.”

To generate the ratings, U.S. News evaluated hospitals across more than 25 quality measures – including mortality, readmissions, infections and patient satisfaction scores – and analyzed more than 5 million patient records, taking into account each patient’s health conditions, age, sex, socioeconomic status and other factors affecting risk.

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