The last two years have presented U.S. health systems with a gauntlet of COVID-related challenges—a novel coronavirus, supply and business disruptions, workforce shortages—and those circumstances make this year’s 100 Top Hospitals list, based on data from 2020, unlike any other in the annual study’s 28-year history.
Another aspect that sets this year’s list apart is its name: This is the debut of the Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals list, a reflection of the fact that Fortune’s research partner on the list, IBM Watson Health, became a standalone company named Merative after it was purchased by the investment firm Francisco Partners in 2022.
The organizations on this year’s 100 Top Hospitals and 15 Top Health Systems lists represent those that held up best against the pandemic’s ongoing stress test. They achieved better results than peer institutions on performance indicators intended to measure clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, patient experience, and financial health. The study, which for this year evaluated 2,650 U.S. hospitals, relies on publicly available Medicare data for its analysis. The Top Hospitals list also considers an organization’s contributions to its community and equity of care.
The effects of the public health crisis, and particularly the suspension of elective procedures in the early phase of the pandemic, were evident in the data: Compared to the previous year, 19.3% of all hospitals had a longer length of stay, and 17.9% experienced an increase in total expense per patient.
While some hospitals saw financial and operational declines, the median hospital saw better overall quality outcomes in 2020 than in the previous year, with lower risk-adjusted complication rates, 30-day readmission rates, and 30-day mortality rates.
According to Merative’s analysis, if all hospitals performed at the same high level as those comprising the Top 100 list—one of the aims of annually publishing the data is to improve performance across the sector—it’d prevent 104,000 patient deaths, 55,000 patients from having complications, and $12.5 billion in spending on in-patient care.
Strikingly, many of the hospitals that rose to the top of this year’s list were standout performers the previous year, suggesting that the high-performing hospitals were better equipped to manage the various tests of the pandemic.
Merative’s researchers found that hospitals that have repeatedly ranked among the 100 Top Hospitals tend to share seven key characteristics, including a mature culture (and a commitment to maintaining it), nursing excellence, deeply committed leadership, quality-focused hospital boards, an embrace of data and innovative technology (used in a practical manner), and local autonomy within health systems.—Erika Fry, senior writer, Fortune
Below, find where the top hospitals in each category are located, then click through to each of the sublists, the 15 top health systems list, and the methodology page.
Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals
Merative and 100 Top Hospitals are registered trademarks of Merative L.P. and/or its subsidiaries in the United States and other countries. FORTUNE is a trademark of Fortune Media IP Limited; registered in the U.S. and other countries.
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