Tag Archives: rankings

Best place to age is Minnesota (again)

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

minnesotaFor the second straight year, Minnesota ranks as the best place for seniors, according to a new report, from the United Health Foundation, “America’s Health Rankings Senior Report: A Call to Action for Individuals and Their Communities.”

Minnesota’s strengths include ranking first for all health determinants combined, which includes being among the top five states for a high rate of annual dental visits, a high percentage of volunteerism, a high percentage of quality nursing home beds, a low percentage of marginal food insecurity, a high percentage of prescription drug coverage, and ready availability of home health care workers.

The state also ranks second for all health outcomes combined, including ranking in the top five for a low rate of hospitalization for hip fractures, a high percentage of able-bodied seniors, a low premature death rate, a low prevalence of full-mouth tooth extractions, and few poor mental health days per month. Continue reading

Covering hospital ratings? Here’s one aspect consumers need you to report #ahcj14

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Photo: Pia ChristensenA Health Journalism 2014 panel about hospital rankings included (left to right) Evan Marks of Healthgrades, Marshall Allen of ProPublica and John Santa, M.D., of Consumer Reports.

If you were at Health Journalism 2014, you might have heard that things got interesting on Saturday when journalists questioned panelists who represented hospital ranking services about their business practices.

Tony Leys

Tony Leys, a reporter for the Des Moines Register, was in the audience for “Hospital grading: Reporting on quality report cards” and asked Evan Marks, the executive vice president of informatics and strategy for Healthgrades, how much hospitals pay his organization to be allowed to advertise their ratings. Marks refused to answer the question.

After the panel, Leys pursued the question and got some details that all reporters should be aware of when they consider writing about hospital rankings, including some concrete data on how much hospitals are paying in “licensing fees” to ratings services. You might use his technique to find out how much some of your local hospitals are paying.

Read this tip sheet to find out more.

Should journalists cover hospital ratings?

Charles Ornstein

About Charles Ornstein

Charles Ornstein is a senior reporter with ProPublica in New York. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is a member and past president of the Association of Health Care Journalists' board of directors and a member of its Right to Know Committee.

(Editor’s note: This was originally published on Ornstein’s Tumblr site and re-published here with his permission.)

Few things in health journalism make me cringe more than news releases touting hospital ratings and awards. They’re everywhere. Along with the traditional U.S. News & World Report rankings, we now have scores and ratings from the Leapfrog Group, Consumers Union, HealthGrades, etc.

I typically urge reporters to avoid writing about them if they can. If their editors mandate it, I suggest they focus on data released by their state health department or on the federal Hospital Compare website. I also tell reporters to be sure to check whether a hospital has had recent violations/deficiencies identified during government inspections. That’s easy to do on the website hospitalinspections.org, run by the Association of Health Care Journalists (Disclosure: I was a driving force behind the site.)

Last week, I got an email from Cindy Uken, a diligent health reporter from the Billings (Mont.) Gazette. She was seeking my thoughts on covering hospital ratings. I sent her a story written by Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News about the proliferation of ratings. Two of every three hospitals in Washington, D.C., Rau reported, had won an award of some kind from a major rating group or company. He pointed out how hospitals that were best-in-class in one award program were sometimes rated poorly in another.

This got me thinking: What should reporters tell their editors about hospital rankings, ratings and awards. I sought advice from Rau, ProPublica’s Marshall Allen, Steve Sternberg of U.S. News & World Report and John Santa of Consumers Union. Here’s what they told me: Continue reading

Journalists share tips for weighing hospital rankings #ahcj13

Jane Lerner

About Jane Lerner

Jane Lerner is a staff writer at The (Rockland) Journal News. She is attending Health Journalism 2013 on an AHCJ-New York Health Journalism Fellowship, which is supported by the New York State Health Foundation.

Photo by Pia ChristensenMarshall Allen, standing, was joined by his ProPublica colleague for a workshop about hospital rankings.

Can every hospital really be better than every other hospital at everything?

Hospital public relations folks and the people who produce rankings, such as Leapfrog and HealthGrades, would like us to think that’s the case.

But, as journalists, we need to take a critical look at the ever-increasing number of hospital rankings that land in our inboxes, said Marshall Allen and Olga Pierce, both of ProPublica.

The pair outlined tips we can use to decipher information during a workshop, “Making sense of hospital ratings: A guide for reporters,” at Health Journalism 2013 in Boston. Continue reading

Ranking may lead to sources for reporting on aging

Judith Graham

About Judith Graham

Judith Graham (@judith_graham), is a freelance journalist based in Denver and former topic leader on aging for AHCJ. She haswritten for the New York Times, Kaiser Health News, the Washington Post, the Journal of the American Medical Association, STAT News, the Chicago Tribune, and other publications.

Health reporters covering the aging beat might be interested in which hospitals offer the best geriatric services, according to recent rankings published by U.S. News & World Report.

Don’t take the magazine’s word as gospel; its method for rating hospitals has been questioned by many and is by no means the definitive word on the subject.

That said, each of the hospital departments mentioned on the U.S. News list houses experts knowledgeable about aging and health. You might want to put the list in a file so it’s handy when you’re looking for sources to comment on a story you’re covering.

These are the top 25 geriatrics departments, according to the magazine:

1. Mt. Sinai Medical Center, New York
2. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
3. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore
4. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
5. Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
6. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
7. Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland
8. New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
9. UPMC-University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh
10. Yale-New Haven Hospital, New Haven, Conn.
11. University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, Ann Arbor
12. UCSF Medical Center, San Francisco
13. Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore
14. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
15. NYU Langone Medical Center, New York
16. Hospital for Special Surgery, New York
17. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston
18. Rush University Medical Center, Chicago
19. Barnes-Jewish Hospital/Washington University, St. Louis
20. University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle
21. St. Louis University Hospital, St. Louis
22. Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston
23. Methodist Hospital, Houston
24. University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland
25. Indiana University Health, Indianapolis

I’m struck by the absence on this list of hospitals in the South, the Southwest and the interior West. This may have to do with U.S. News‘ methodology, which relies heavily on recommendations from medical specialists. But it’s a bit disconcerting, nonetheless.

Judith GrahamJudith Graham (@judith_graham), AHCJ’s topic leader on aging, is writing blog posts, editing tip sheets and articles and gathering resources to help our members cover the many issues around our aging society.

If you have questions or suggestions for future resources on the topic, please send them to judith@healthjournalism.org.

Consider source when reporting hospital rankings

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

HealthGrades, a health care ratings company, has released a report (PDF) that says “Medicare patients treated at top-rated hospitals nationwide across the most common Medicare diagnoses and procedures are 27 percent less likely to die, on average, than those admitted to all other hospitals.”

The report also names the hospitals that HealthGrades has deemed “Distinguished Hospitals for Clinical Excellence.”

That study (PDF) and the designations for hospitals are prompting a number of news articles reporting that local hospitals have been named as “top hospitals.”

But there are some things to think about when examining hospital rankings. For one thing, hospitals pay HealthGrades to use its information as promotional material. In addition, the data HealthGrades uses can be out of date and is based only on Medicare patients. A 2002 review found that “ratings on individual hospitals were often misleading.”

Charles Ornstein of ProPublica wrote a thorough tip sheet about how to cover your local hospital, including information about HealthGrades and other hospital rankings.

For a more balanced comparison of local hospitals, consider using the Hospital Compare patient survey data from the Department of Health and Human Services. AHCJ has made it easier for journalists to compare hospitals in their regions by generating spreadsheet files from the HHS database, allowing members to compare more than a few hospitals at a time, using spreadsheet or database software.

AHCJ provides key documentation and explanatory material to help you understand the data possibilities and limits. Need help analyzing Excel files? AHCJ offers a tutorial about investigating health data using spreadsheets.