U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” rankings to be released July 19

We have received word that the 2011 U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” rankings will be released on July 19.

In 2010, four UNC Health Care medical specialties were ranked in U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” issue. Ear, Nose & Throat (21), Gastroenterology (27), Gynecology (27), and Cancer (47) were listed among the best in the country.

While multiple specialties at UNC Hospitals have been included in U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals list for 18 years now, we have always believed that the high quality care we provide is not fully reflected in these rankings.

In 2008 a task force was formed to find ways to make sure that our U.S. News rankings reflect the quality of the care we deliver. This group examined the survey methodologies and investigated how UNC Health Care managed the processes that informed these data. Using this, information groups throughout the organization have worked diligently to put into place changes that we feel confident will improve our rankings.

U.S. News and World Report ranks hospitals based on scores from three main areas – structure, outcomes, and reputation, with a small percentage based on a measure of certain outcomes and complications that is reported as “patient safety.”

Structure: We made significant accomplishments this year in the structure category, including:

  • Achieving Nurse Magnet status
  • Properly reporting our numbers of intensivists (also known as hospitalists)
  • Correcting our nurse staffing numbers (an important part of nurse/patient ratio measurement) to make sure they accurately reflected our actual staffing.

Outcome: We substantially improved the accuracy of the data reported for our risk adjusted mortality index—the lone measure of the outcome score. Upon close examination, it became clear that the complexity and severity of our patients’ medical condition was not reflected in the data reported to U.S. News.  While maintaining the highest quality of care, we have worked hard to correctly assess our patient population, which is often among the sickest and most difficult to care for.

Despite recent improvement in the accuracy of reporting for UNC mortality index, due to U.S. News methods, it will take several years for these changes to affect our score.  Unfortunately, the ranking methodology uses data that lag several years behind current changes, and this year’s score will be based on 2007 – 2009 data.

Reputation: Working with numerous departments, the Public Affairs and Marketing group has developed a national reputation strategy that was implemented in the fall of 2010.  Program-specific efforts continue to communicate the leading research and clinical services performed at UNC Health Care to the national physician audience who are likely to complete the one-item reputation surveys used in the U.S. News rankings.

In the meantime, our efforts are already recognized by our patients. Our patient satisfaction scores from both Press Ganey and the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Provider Systems (HCAHPS) have improved dramatically in the past several years and in the most recent HCAHPS scores, we scored better in every category compared to every hospital in the Triangle.

While there are many ways to measure our successes, we know that many people judge UNC Health Care in part because of U.S. News rankings. Our delivery of high quality health care continues to improve and we expect the rankings to reflect these improvements in the future.  Thank you for all you have done to support us in this important effort.