“Northwestern Memorial Hospital is the only Illinois medical center to land among the best 20 hospitals nationwide, according to new rankings by U.S. News & World Report.
Compared to the previous year’s list, the local powerhouse fell a few spots down, to 13th from 8th. The systems that grabbed the top nationwide rankings are the Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Statewide, there were more surprises. (See the list at the bottom of this story.) As in 2016, the top Illinois hospitals are Northwestern at No. 1 and Rush University Medical Center at No. 2, according to U.S. News. But University of Chicago Medical Center dropped from 3rd in 2016 to 8th this year. Knocking it out of the top three is Loyola University Medical Center, which ranked nationally in six specialties including cardiology and heart surgery, nephrology and pulmonology.
Meanwhile, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital, located some 40 miles from the Loop, moved up to 5th from 7th in 2016. Acquired by Northwestern as part of a 2014 merger, the ranking surge perhaps shows how patients’ perception of Northwestern as a good facility boosts local markets.
Noticeably absent from the 2017 state rankings is the University of Illinois Hospital, Chicago, which was in the 8th spot in Illinois last year. “We are highly disappointed by the U.S. News ranking for our hospital,” said Avijit Ghosh, CEO of University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics, in an emailed statement.
For the 2017 rankings, U.S. News evaluated more than 4,500 medical centers nationwide in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions, including data such as patient volume, survival rates and adequacy of nurse staffing. The ratings, which began in 1990, aim to make hospital selection easier for patients.
But rankings are best viewed with skepticism, experts say. Hospitals are subject to quality evaluations and rating systems by a variety of independent bodies, including the Joint Commission, Leapfrog Group, the federal government and others. Each organization uses a different formula to calculate rankings, leading to wild disparities in results.
THE NATIONAL PICTURE
In addition to national and state comparisons, the U.S. News scorecard also ranks hospitals by adult specialty. Northwestern landed among the top hospitals nationally in 11 categories, including cancer, cardiology and heart surgery. Dr. Patrick McCarthy, chief of cardiac surgery at Northwestern and executive director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, said in a statement that the health system is “re-inventing new models of care to achieve superior outcomes, like having the highest survival rate in the United States for heart failure.”
As for why Northwestern dropped a few places on the overall ranking, a spokeswoman declined to comment, saying only that U.S. News hadn’t provided hospitals an analysis of how it compared to other health centers.
After Northwestern, the Illinois hospitals that appeared most on the national specialty lists are Rush University Medical Center with eight and Loyola at six. Rush, which replaced former President George W. Bush’s knees in 2014, continues to be the top-ranked hospital in the state for orthopedics.
“These rankings continue to show the sustained excellence of multiple programs at Rush, reflecting both the very high quality of the clinical care we provide for our patients and our rapidly growing research efforts that are making care even better,” Dr. Larry Goodman, CEO of the Rush system, said in a statement.
At least six other Illinois hospitals cracked the national rankings for specialties, a good sign for the quality of health care systems in the state. Only about 3 percent of hospitals nationwide ranked in any specialty.
WHERE’S U OF C?
University of Chicago Medical Center, meanwhile, appeared on three national specialty lists—cancer, gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery, and gynecology—compared to four in 2016. In a statement, a spokeswoman called the rankings “unfair.”
“While we are proud of the programs that have been recognized, we are disappointed with the overall rankings of the Medical Center,” she said. “We remain challenged by the unexpected and substantial changes in criteria (used by U.S. News). This year, a completely new approach was used to rank hospitals within their respective cities and states, based not on specialty care but a series of ‘common procedures and conditions,’ ” such as the outcome of patients who are discharged and complication rates after hip replacement surgery.
But Ben Harder, chief of health analysis at U.S. News, said a hospital’s rating in “common procedures and conditions” was important in determining its overall ranking this year and last. He explained that the University of Chicago’s lower ranking could be attributed to the fact that it only ranked nationally in three specialty areas.