U.S. News rankings help hospitals toot their own horns

     Penn Presbyterian Medical Center touts its ranking on its website homepage.

    Penn Presbyterian Medical Center touts its ranking on its website homepage.

    Annual hospital rankings from U.S. News and World Report are out, and that’s got marketers just as excited as doctors.

    The Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania (which includes Penn Presbyterian) remain in the top ten nationally and first in the region, while Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Lankenau Medical Center also fared well.

    A common criticism of many hospital rating systems is that they don’t base scores on hard data, such as patient outcomes or infection rates. Some rely entirely on the opinions of doctors, though that’s not the case with most of the U.S. News categories.

    No matter how it’s calculated, hospitals will use a good ranking to its advantage. Expect to see the 2015-16 results on billboards, ads and homepages.

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    “This is something that has considerable value to the health systems that receive the positive rankings, so they will use it as you would any other seal of approval,” said Stuart Fine, an associate professor at Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

    But he cautions that while a hospital may receive accolades for one speciality — say, cardiac care — that doesn’t mean excellence spills over to other areas of treatment. Fine recommends patients use any ranking system simply as a starting place for deciding where to receive care.

    “It should be one factor of many that people take into account…but everybody’s case is different, and everybody’s personal and family circumstances are different. So you really do need to take the time to make a decision based on what makes the best sense for you and your family.”

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