There’s a good chance that at some point in your lifetime, either you or a loved one will require hospital care. Whether for the birth of a new child, a preventative test or a more serious health issue, your hospital stay is one of the most important investments you will ever make.
But how should you decide where to get the care you need? There are more than 6,000 hospitals in the country, and the American healthcare system is notoriously difficult to navigate.
To help you through the process, Money is publishing its inaugural list of the best hospitals in the country in partnership with the Leapfrog Group, a healthcare nonprofit that has been vetting hospitals for more than 20 years.
The list is designed to spotlight the facilities that consistently deliver the safest, highest-value care for patients and give you peace of mind when it comes to the things that will make your hospital experience the best it can possibly be. Are your caregivers regularly washing their hands? Does your hospital outperform its peers when it comes to complex surgeries? Is there a system in place to make sure you receive the right dose of medication at the right time? Does the hospital have enough staff to meet your needs?
What makes a top hospital?
To whittle down those 6,000 hospitals to only the best, the Leapfrog Group used data from its flagship Leapfrog Hospitals Survey, its Hospital Safety Grade assessment and public data sources. Leapfrog evaluates hospitals on a wide range of criteria, from ICU staffing to outcomes for high-risk surgeries to maternity care.
The result is a list of 148 hospitals in five categories (general hospitals, children’s hospitals, rural hospitals, large teaching hospitals and small teaching hospitals) that spans 29 states. From the University of Chicago Medical Center to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, to Bridgton Hospital in Maine to USC Norris Cancer Hospital Los Angeles, the facilities that made the cut are the best of the best.
You can read more about our methodology here.
A focus on safety and quality
Much of the rigorous vetting process for this list is focused on patient safety, and for good reason. Preventing avoidable errors, accidents and complications is one of the best ways to ensure a safe and efficient hospital stay. Incidents like medication errors or infections picked up at the hospital can pose a tremendous risk to your health, and they can also add tremendous costs to your final bill.
Here’s one example. All the hospitals on the list were required to meet Leapfrog’s standards for a process called computerized physician order entry, or CPOE for short. Doctors and nurses use CPOE systems to order medications and tests electronically. Because everything is managed through one central database, the system can alert providers if they prescribe you a drug you’re allergic to, if they prescribe something that will interfere with a drug you’re already taking, or if they accidentally order the wrong dosage.
Studies have found that hospitals that use CPOE systems have fewer instances of medication errors and are safer for patients. That’s good news — both for your health and for your wallet. One study found that a single adverse drug event could add more than $2,000 to the cost of hospitalization.
Leapfrog also tracks a hospital’s experience when it comes to certain common high-risk surgeries, including bariatric surgery for weight loss, lung cancer surgery, open heart surgery and others. Patients who have surgeries like these performed by surgeons and hospitals with more experience tend to have fewer complications and shorter hospital stays than patients whose surgeries are performed by less experienced providers. They also have a lower risk of dying.
How to use Money's Best Hospitals list
If you’re planning for a hospital stay or an outpatient procedure any time soon, our best hospitals list can help you make the decision about where to receive care.
We also know that not every hospital stay is planned, and that there are lots of factors that can determine which hospitals patients use — from insurance coverage to accessibility to proximity to family. For tips on navigating your stay no matter where you are, you can check out our complete guide to hospitals and your money here.
And if you’re looking for more, stay tuned. In the coming months, Money and Leapfrog will publish lists of the top hospitals for ethical billing practices, the best pediatric care, and the best maternity care.