Penn Medicine Is Withdrawing From National Hospital Rankings. Here’s Why That Matters
The local health system will no longer participate in U.S. News & World Report's annual "Best Hospitals" list. Instead, it'll publish more comprehensive metrics of its own.
Every year, U.S. News & World Report (USNWR) releases its “Best Hospitals” list, which designates the greatest hospitals across the country. And every year for the past 16, those affiliated with Penn Medicine — namely, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — have made the publication’s top 20 Honor Roll, and named the best hospital in both Philadelphia and Pennsylvania last year.
Despite the accolades, the health system has decided it will withdraw its participation in these rankings starting in 2024. That means while USNWR will likely continue ranking Penn Medicine’s six hospitals — HUP and Penn Presbyterian, plus Pennsylvania Hospital, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health and Princeton Health — thanks to public data, Penn Medicine will discontinue “submitting information to the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey, from which the publication draws data as a key part of its ‘Best Hospitals’ methodology,” as well as “any promotion of its position on the ‘Honor Roll,’ specialty rankings, or any other rankings content,” according to its press release.
The move — spearheaded by Kevin Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System — is driven by the fact that USNWR bases its “Best Hospitals” rankings solely on inpatient care of those Medicare-insured. Mahoney — and the health system at large — believe this is not only an outdated measure, but one that does not reflect the full scope of care, much of which is delivered from Penn Medicine in “care everywhere” settings like outpatient centers, patients’ homes and telehealth.
The rankings have been criticized for other reasons, too, including eligibility being too narrowly defined or too reliant on “reputation.” For reference, a hospital qualifies for consideration if it is a teaching hospital; is affiliated with a medical school; has at least 200 beds set up and staffed; or has at least 100 beds and offers at least four out of eight advanced technologies associated with high-quality care, such as a PET/CT scanner and certain precision radiation therapies. After that, the board uses more extensive evaluation measurements, some of which “change regularly, making it difficult to meaningfully draw conclusions about hospital quality over time, let alone the enormous amount of care provided outside the hospital,” says Patrick Brennan, Penn Medicine’s Chief Medical Officer. Plus, “they incentivize health systems to expend resources both to compete for placement in the rankings and promote their position on the list,” he adds.
“Patients deserve information about their health-care system and the settings in which they might get care,” Mahoney told us via email. “However, ranking programs don’t help patients make decisions about where to go. What’s more, the rankings aren’t an accurate snapshot of modern health-care delivery systems, in which care is often provided in settings beyond the walls of a hospital … and do not fully capture the scope of our patient population or institutional priorities. The decision to de-emphasize the U.S. News & World Report rankings will help us shift to more comprehensive and informative resources for tracking progress as well as those operating on a not-for-profit basis.”
Penn Medicine is one of the first local health systems to pull itself from the list, following the same decision by Bethlehem-based St. Luke’s University Health Network last month. The trend of scrutinizing and withdrawing from third-party rankings began last November when law schools across the country, including Penn and Yale, announced they’d stop submitting data to USNWR. And earlier this year, medical schools, including Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and top-ranked Harvard, followed suit. The latter two boycotts resulted in the publication delaying the lists’ releases several times — and even tweaking the methodology for ranking law schools — though, some argue not much has changed.
To evolve, Mahoney says Penn Medicine will be developing a public-facing dashboard that “gives patients actionable information about what matters most to their specific health-care journeys.” He tells us the data aims to be more transparent and reflective of modern care operations, and will contain “both the longstanding measures that remain important about hospital care, along with metrics that are needed as health care moves increasingly into the home and via remote monitoring.” (Per Penn Medicine’s announcement, patients of all ages, across multiple treatment settings, will be included in the report, which will be updated annually and made available online.)
Additionally, Penn Medicine is on a mission to work with other health systems, both locally and nationally, to develop standardized measures for self-reporting. “We have open and collaborative relationships with peer health systems, and are dedicated to expanding the way care is delivered and improving outcomes,” Mahoney says. “Working together, we can develop better informational options for patients and their families — and concentrate our energies on what matters most: helping people live longer, healthier lives.”