- Healthgrades has announced the recipients of the 2023 America’s Best Hospitals Awards and State Rankings.
- The top 50 hospitals on their list identify the top 1% of hospitals in the US.
- The site’s annual recognition offers a comprehensive look at healthcare options derived from a review of nearly 4,500 hospitals, spanning more than 31 of the most common conditions and procedures.
Finding the right healthcare support and treatment for you can be a challenge. For some people, it might be difficult to know where to turn to receive optimal care.
Healthgrades, the leading online resource for comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals, has announced the recipients of their 2023 America’s Best Hospitals Awards and State Rankings, according to a press release.
The site’s annual recognition of the nationwide leaders in overall clinical excellence and the top-ranked hospitals for specialty care by each state offers a comprehensive look at healthcare options derived from a review of nearly 4,500 hospitals, spanning more than 31 of the most common conditions and procedures.
They used MedPAR data spanning from 2019 through 2021, representing three-year estimates for Medicare patients only.
Healthgrades also assessed the hospitals included in their lists by 18 specialty areas to pinpoint those that ranked the highest in 32 eligible states.
The top hospitals were broken down into three categories: America’s 50, 100, and 250 Best Hospitals, which name those medical centers that are in the top 1, 2, and 5% respectively, in the United States.
When it comes to why these rankings are important, Dr. Brad Bowman, chief medical officer at Healthgrades, told Healthline that identifying the “top 1, 2, and 5% of hospitals” in the U.S. “takes the guesswork out of making a decision that could have life-or-death implications.”
“Access to objective, easy-to-understand measures of hospital quality is increasingly important to consumers, more than half of whom are more concerned about the quality of care they receive today as a result of the pandemic,” Bowman explained. “Consumers who pick an America’s Best Hospital have a significantly better chance of experiencing a positive outcome across a range of common conditions and procedures, from heart failure to joint replacement.”
“In fact, if all hospitals, as a group, performed similarly to America’s 250 Best Hospitals, 160,615 lives could have been saved between 2019 and 2021,” he added.
In order to determine the 50 best hospitals in the US, Healthgrades used a three-pronged approach to its methodology.
First, they looked at which hospitals received the 250 Best Hospitals Award this year and then counted the hospitals’ consecutive years of being named one of the 250 best.
Then, they ranked the hospitals by the number of consecutive years they received the America’s 250 Best Award, and then sorted their volume-weighted z-scores (which are averaged across all complication and mortality-based cohorts) for 2023. These scores are a statistical measure of hospital quality outcomes.
Finally, Healthgrades looked at which received the America’s 250 Best Hospitals Award for at least 8 consecutive years. Given that more than 50 hospitals were on the list for at least 8 years, they utilized the most recent volume-weighted z-score to find the top 50.
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated insecurities and qualms among patients and healthcare workers that existed before while generating a host of new challenges that were unforeseen before the onset of the pandemic.
This has made it incredibly challenging for hospitals and providers themselves.
Leighton Ku, PhD, MPH, professor in the Dept. of Health Policy and Management, Director, Center for Health Policy Research at the George Washington University, told Healthline that from 2020 through 2022 hospitals “experienced major stresses” as a result of multiple pandemic-related challenges.
“These challenges were not borne equally,” explained Ku, who is unaffiliated with Healthgrades and the annual rankings. “In 2020, New York hospitals were the first slammed, but more recently the harm has been felt in other parts of the country, often more conservative areas where people were less vaccinated and there were other social challenges (e.g., opioid use, the ‘deaths of despair’).”
Ku said signs of social inequality pervasive throughout the country “as poverty rose in many communities” and lower vaccination rates among minorities who also faced “other care problems” further compounded many of the stresses on hospitals. He added that controversies around COVID-19 resulted in “increasing distrust of the healthcare system and public health precautions” in general.
As the pandemic continued to rage, all of this made for something of a perfect storm that made life increasingly complicated for providers and people trying to make sense of where they should turn for their healthcare needs.
“There were some notable factors that relieved financial pressure on hospitals in the past couple of years, but those are ending,” Ku said.
He pointed to the fact that the federal government had previously dedicated substantial funding to healthcare, including the Provider Relief Fund, as well as free COVID-19 services.
He further explained that in 2020 Congress added federal funding to support Medicaid but also required states to stop disenrolling Medicaid patients during the pandemic.
“This led to large increases in Medicaid coverage, and the number of uninsured actually fell despite the economic stress. But the Provider Relief Fund is no longer distributing funds and the Medicaid caseloads are about to ‘unwind,’ which will lead to a large increase in the number of uninsured.”
“The combination of renewed financial pressures and falling federal assistance will create additional challenges in 2023 and 2024 for many hospitals, particularly safety net and rural hospitals,” he added. “How well they are able to adjust might depend on future federal and state policy actions.”
A recession will likely bring with it even greater challenges in the years ahead, as higher interest rates mean that hospitals will have a harder time borrowing and financing renovations and operational improvements.
For his part, Bowman added that staffing shortages, “dwindling profit margins,” and the “fallout from this season’s ‘tripledemic’ of RSV, flu, and coronavirus” have created a mountain of stress for hospitals.
“These awards celebrate those hospitals that are rising to the challenge in this difficult environment,” Bowman said.
As Bowman said, rankings like this one can be helpful during an era when it seems like the average American faces what might feel like overwhelming health challenges. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic tremendous strain was placed on those seeking needed care.
An October 2022 survey published by Healthgrades revealed that 57% of American patients “report being more concerned with the quality of care provided by the doctors and hospitals they choose today” than they were in a pre-pandemic world.
The survey found 64% of respondents said they are currently more concerned with their overall health and wellness than before, while over one-third reported they spend more time researching the quality of a hospital before choosing where to go for a given procedure.
Additionally, 77% said they would be comfortable visiting the hospital where they are “most likely to go for a medical procedure,” but most “do not believe the pandemic is over and are concerned about how the virus” might affect themselves or their family members over the next year.
Over the course of the pandemic, much attention was paid to the role social and racial inequities play in adverse health outcomes, as well as how societal roadblocks can prevent many from accessing life-saving care.
Geography can play a big role as well. So, what can you do if you aren’t physically near one of the top 50 hospitals?
When asked about the role these social determinants play on health outcomes, Ku said that on one hand, much greater awareness has been directed toward the importance of these issues, which has in turn created more robust “efforts to reduce health inequalities, such as efforts to lower maternal mortality among Black mothers.”
“Many of these things are encouraged at the national level, but rely on local community actions. Some communities are supportive, but others are not and are taking actions to lower health access — e.g., restricting abortion or family planning or care for HIV patients,” Ku explained.
He reiterated that many pandemic-era social benefits like Medicaid expansions and child tax credits helped tremendously, but are unfortunately expiring.
“On the other hand, unemployment has remained low recently, and pay increases are often helping minority and low-skilled workers. If the economy worsens and we have reduced some of the extra social benefits that were adopted during COVID, then social and health inequality could worsen,” Ku said. “This could lead to higher health needs and poorer health access for lower-income and minority Americans in the next couple of years.”
A potential recession is certainly an ominous threat to health equity and outcomes.
“If there is a recession, one inevitable result will be that state revenues fall and they must cut funding for health and social services, including subsidies for hospitals,” Ku added. “States, unlike the federal government, have balanced budget requirements and must cut funding when the economy goes south. One of the good things recently is greater awareness of mental health problems that grew during the pandemic, which is leading to proposals to increase funding.”
Bowman said that right now, hospitals have to address disparities in access to care “which is key to improving clinical outcomes.”
“Social determinants of health such as housing, food insecurity, and transportation have a huge impact on health. To address this important issue, we’re working to incorporate health equity data into our methodology by the end of the year. By ensuring that those factors are reflected in our models, Healthgrades is making it easier for all patients to find top-rated care,” he added.
In addition to the challenges brought on by the pandemic and economy-fueled national health inequities, the healthcare system as a whole can be difficult to navigate.
Sometimes it can be hard to even know how to find a provider or a hospital that works for your own needs.
Just how big of a challenge is it to find care tailored to your needs in America today?
“The American healthcare system is blessed with lots of capacity including well-qualified health professionals and high-tech care, such as new treatments for COVID, cancer, etc. But that system is expensive and very tricky to navigate. In order to try to make care more efficient, insurers are constantly developing new care arrangements that often require better navigation skills,” Ku explained. “But it is not clear that the skills to navigate this system are not equally distributed.”
He added that people with more education and financial means have “advantages and greater health literacy” to navigate the system.
“Probably the biggest recent change is the advent of telehealth, which improves access. Low-income and less educated people are less likely to have computer systems, Internet connectivity to take advantage of these options, but nonetheless, lots of low-income people still have smartphones that can help,” Ku said.
Bowman said he hopes a tool like Healthgrades’s list can offer something of a beacon for those who feel intimidated in the process of seeking care. It could offer a jumping-off point for locating a provider who can best serve you.
“While many consumers do their research before choosing a doctor, far too few consider the quality of the hospital where their doctor practices,” Bowman added. “In addition to considering patient reviews and experience with a given procedure or condition, consumers should select a doctor who practices at a high quality hospital. The America’s 250 Best Hospitals award is a great starting point for consumers searching.”
Mayo Clinic Hospital; Phoenix
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; West Hollywood
Eden Medical Center; Castro Valley
Kaiser Permanente San Jose Medical Center; San Jose
Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center; Santa Clara
Mills-Peninsula Medical Center; Burlingame
Northridge Hospital Medical Center; Northridge
Providence Holy Cross Medical Center; Mission Hills
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center; Los Angeles
Scripps Green Hospital; La Jolla
Stanford Health Care; Stanford
Sutter Roseville Medical Center; Roseville
UCLA Santa Monica Medical Center; Santa Monica
Poudre Valley Hospital; Fort Collins
Christiana Hospital; Newark
Mayo Clinic in Florida; Jacksonville
Emory University Hospital; Atlanta
Emory University Hospital Midtown; Atlanta
UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital; Cedar Rapids
Amita Health Alexian Brothers Medical Center Elk Grove Village; Elk Grove Village
Carle Foundation Hospital; Urbana
University of Kansas Hospital; Kansas City
Lahey Hospital and Medical Center; Burlington
MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center; Baltimore
Ascension Providence Hospital-Southfield Campus; Southfield
Beaumont Hospital, Troy
Abbott Northwestern Hospital; Minneapolis
Mayo Clinic Hospital, Saint Marys Campus; Rochester
Mercy Hospital; Coon Rapids
Mission Hospital; Asheville
Morristown Medical Center; Morristown
Overlook Medical Center; Summit
Lenox Hill Hospital; New York City
Rochester General Hospital; Rochester
Stony Brook University Hospital; Stony Brook
Vassar Brothers Medical Center; Poughkeepsie
Bethesda North Hospital; Cincinnati
Mercy Health-Fairfield Hospital; Fairfield
Mercy Health-West Hospital; Cincinnati
ProMedica Toledo Hospital; Toledo
The Jewish Hospital-Mercy Health; Cincinnati
Mission Hospital; Asheville
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center; Portland
Chester County Hospital; West Chester
Lancaster General Hospital; Lancaster
Lankenau Medical Center; Wynnewood
Reading Hospital; West Reading
Houston Methodist Hospital; Houston
EvergreenHealth Medical Center-Kirkland; Kirkland
Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center; Vancouver
Froedtert Hospital; Milwaukee
*Healthgrades and Healthline are part of the RVO Health portfolio of brands.