Those hospital rankings could use a healthy dose of skepticism

The U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” rankings for 2012-13 were released last week, followed by the usual media hoopla and a few chest-thumping press releases from hospitals at the top of the list. Whether the rankings actually mean anything is an entirely different story.

The highest-ranked hospitals are always quick to tout their rankings in hopes of attracting new patients who will pay top dollar. Many Americans will consult the U.S. News list when they are selecting a hospital for their next elective procedure or care consultation. Why go to the third-best cancer center in your area when you can go to the best!

But a quick look shows that these rankings are not all they’re cracked up to be. The methodology that U.S. News uses to rank hospitals yields a list that is flawed to the point of being nearly useless. It also may be counterproductive, since some of the so-called quality criteria U.S. News cites can encourage investments in higher-cost and lower-quality care.

The problems with hospital rankings are similar to the problems with U.S. News scoring for colleges and universities. Read more here.

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