Choosing the best hospital can be a complicated endeavor. There are over 6,000 such medical institutions across the United States, and patients often lack the time, energy and expertise to evaluate the best choice, even among the facilities close to where they live.

To simplify the process, Money has crunched more than 13,500 data points to create a list of the 115 top hospitals in the U.S. Money’s main partner in this project was health care transparency firm Denniston Data, which helped us collect, analyze and rank those statistics.

Each of the hospitals on our list has been assigned an overall letter grade of between A+ and B, the latter being the minimum grade we considered for inclusion, after culling out lower scoring facilities.

On our main ranking of Best Hospitals, we’ve also cited the procedures they carry out most often along with their specialty areas, how transparent their pricing is and other data points for quick reference.

Here’s a closer look at how we developed our 2024 list of Best Hospitals.

Money’s steps for choosing the best hospitals

Our process for pruning the list of all hospitals in the country to a shortlist of the standouts involves a number of analyses of data from several different sources. Here’s more on that sequence of steps.

Starting with high-quality hospitals

Our first step to whittling down 6,000-plus hospitals across the country was to consider only facilities that received a 4- or 5-star ratings for quality from the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). According to CMS, fewer than 1,300 hospitals have a 4-star rating or higher.

The CMS rating (included on the list of hospitals as “federal rating”) is based on five key factors that are weighted as follows:

  • Mortality (22%): measures the death rates related to cardiovascular issues, strokes, pneumonia and treatable complications after surgery
  • Safety (22%): tracks the rate of infections associated with certain surgeries, IVs and catheters and rates of complications after specific procedures
  • Readmission (22%): considers how often some patients are readmitted to the hospital, along with how long they stayed and whether there were unplanned visits for outpatient treatment
  • Patient experience (22%): gauges whether patients had a positive experience based on their self-reported ratings of how well their doctors and nurses communicated with them; other factors include whether their bathroom was clean and their room was quiet at night
  • Timely and effective care (12%): estimates how quickly patients received care for chest pain or strokes; how long they stayed during an ER visit; percent of health care staff who are vaccinated for flu and COVID-19 and other time-sensitive metrics

Refining quality hospitals based on the experience of their physicians

Next, we leverage a novel way that Denniston Data measures quality care: by identifying high-performing doctors and other providers based on their level of experience with certain procedures. We then reward hospitals for their staffs’ collective experience.

Several studies show that the more experienced a physician is with a certain procedure, the better the health outcome for the patient — and by a large margin. Denniston scores more than 1 million providers through its “Provider Ranking System” (PRS). The PRS measures each provider’s experience with a certain procedure or within a specific specialty by analyzing the frequency of treatment and billable costs as reported to CMS through the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS).

The frequency of the procedure by the provider is then compared to other providers, with each practitioner being given a score of 0% to 100% based on their experience — where 98%, for example, means only 2% of providers ranked higher.

This approach is more equitable than measures of hospital quality that focus heavily on negative events, including mortality (death) rates, how often patients must be readmitted to the hospital and other bad health outcomes. These factors are crucial to track, and are part of what allows us to make our first cut in the list of facilities, by using the federal CMS data.

But over-focusing on these statistics can unfairly penalize providers and hospitals that operate in areas where the patient population — due to social or racial inequities, as examples — may be more likely to have poor health outcomes regardless of the quality of care they receive. For example, a physician in a high-income suburban hospital may have fewer adverse events treating a largely healthy and wealthy population compared to another physician who is working at a free clinic in a low-income urban neighborhood.

Rewarding quality hospitals that have experienced staff

Based on the provider scores, Denniston combines the data to score each hospital based on a weighted average of its practitioners’ scores. This analysis allows the core list of 1,300 facilities that were high-ranked by CMS to be further pruned to 683 hospitals, through use of a measure of each facility called the “Composite Ranking Score” (CRS).

The CRS is a percentile that gets translated into a letter grade. The letter grading system is based on this percentage range:

  • A+ is a CRS score of 95% to 100%.
  • A is 85% to 94.99%.
  • A- is 80% to 84.99%.
  • B+ is 75% to 79.99%.
  • B is 65% to 74.99%.
  • B- is CRS 60% to 64.99%.
  • C+ is 55% to 59.99%.
  • C is 45% to 54.99%.
  • C- is 40% to 49.99%.
  • D+ is 35% to 39.99%.
  • D is 25% to 34.99%.
  • D- is 20% to 24.99%.
  • F is below 20%.

Measuring price transparency

The ability to accurately know in advance what a procedure or visit will cost you is vital to avoiding surprises and accurately planning the financial impact of a hospitalization. As an additional criterion in choosing a hospital, Money developed a price transparency grade for each hospital we ranked. This financial metric is separate from a hospital's overall score, which focuses on quality and experience.

After consulting health care data experts at Denniston and the nonprofit RAND Health Care, Money analyzed the extent to which a hospital’s publicly listed prices (known as chargemaster prices) accurately align with the revenue the hospital receives from patients or Medicare. In effect, we wanted to know: Is the listed price similar to the amount that you’re billed after you’re discharged?

We used two ratios to measure this. The first compares the hospital's chargemaster prices and its gross patient revenue, whether paid by uninsured patients or insurance companies; the second ratio is between the gross billed amount and the total amount approved by Medicare. Weighted equally, these ratios were standardized on a 100-point scale and translated into a letter grade based on the same ranges as listed above for the CRS.

The result: our Price Transparency measure. The lower a hospital’s grade on this measure, the wider the gap between its list prices and what patients have actually paid; the higher the grade, the smaller the difference between the facility’s public prices and the actual bills it issues.

In almost all cases, patients pay less — and often far less — than the publicly listed prices. While this practice is technically discounting, the reality is that many hospitals publicly listed exorbitant chargemaster prices that then get negotiated down by insurers, the federal government or the patients themselves behind closed doors, thus obfuscating what hospital care truly costs and keeping prices high overall.

The price transparency grade does not necessarily mean that a hospital with a B+ is cheaper than the hospital with a C. Rather, it means its publicly listed prices are more accurate, which can better help you financially prepare.

Vetting the top-scoring hospitals

To compile our final list of best hospitals, we looked at only the ones with an overall CRS score of at least B+ (75%) or higher. This group of 117 then received individualized vetting by Money staff to be sure that none had red flags that aren’t evident in the data.

Money excluded several hospitals for either scandals where patient care was compromised (such as upheld complaints of sexual assault, racial discrimination or unnecessary treatment) or that the hospital does not offer emergency care or other services commonly expected of a general hospital.

We then vetted the next 30 hospitals on our master list, all with a grade of B or higher. That exercise yielded the addition of another 15 vetted hospitals for a total of 115.

The result is a comprehensive list of quality hospitals staffed by quality physicians and health care providers, hand picked and vetted by Money’s editorial staff.

Our data, research and editorial team included two editors, a lead data reporter, four editorial staffers and our data partners at Denniston Data. The nonprofit RAND’s health care data team provided supplementary data, guidance and feedback.

Choosing the best hospitals for pediatric care

In addition to our flagship hospital ranking, Money conducted a separate rating of the best hospitals for pediatric care in March 2024. While our philosophical and methodological approach largely mirrors the rigorous process laid out above, this sub-ranking differs in a few key areas.

Our approach examines highly experienced physicians — in this case, pediatricians — working at safe, high-quality hospitals.

Notably, we brought on an additional data partner, Definitive Healthcare, for this sublist (and subsequent ones). Definitive Healthcare’s sprawling hospital database allowed Money to fine-tune our methods for pediatric care.

We also introduced new data and a weighting system to reward facilities with pediatric trauma center designations and high-quality scores from patients and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Read our full methodology for the best hospitals for pediatric care.

Data source: Denniston Data Inc
Supplementary data: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; RAND Health Care