Feb 28, 2018



4 Characteristics of America’s Best Hospitals

By Healthgrades Staff

America’s 50 Best Hospitals™ and America’s 100 Best Hospitals™ distinctions recognize hospitals that deliver superior care across a broad base of inpatient conditions and procedures year after year. What are the measurements that demonstrate this exceptional quality? Simply put, patients treated at America’s Best Hospitals have a lower risk of dying and are less likely to experience in-hospital complications than if they were treated at non-recipient hospitals.

Hospitals that receive this award outperform their peers in treating a core group of conditions that account for, on average, more than 80% of mortalities in areas evaluated by Healthgrades1. Also, America’s Best Hospital recipients are, on average, five times more likely than other facilities to have received a Healthgrades five-star rating for treating some of the most frequent conditions presenting in the emergency room2.

How do America’s Best Hospitals manage to achieve and sustain these levels of performance and quality? Virginia Mason Health System, a recipient of America’s 50 Best Hospitals, cites a culture of patient-centered care. Dr. Gary S. Kaplan, Chairman and CEO of Virginia Mason, states, “Our journey to transform healthcare and become the quality leader started nearly two decades ago when we began transforming our organization into one where patients are truly at the center of everything we do. We’ve built a model where quality and safety are foremost, innovation and collaboration are encouraged, lessons learned are shared broadly, and patient engagement is essential to our continuous improvement efforts.”

Spectrum Health is also an America’s 50 Best Hospitals recipient. Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Tina Freese Decker, attributes their success to collaboration and lofty ambition. “At Spectrum Health, we have a culture of excellence that drives us to continuously push to be better. We have worked collaboratively to establish high-reliability behaviors, ensuring the safety of our patients and team members. We also constantly ask ‘why’ and what can we do better. We must continue to go beyond the status quo. Collaboration across our organization is essential to achieving top outcomes for our patients. Outstanding physician leadership, team-based care, and trust create the foundation of Spectrum Health’s performance improvement and safety priorities,” said Freese Decker.

At Healthgrades, we have gathered a wealth of insights from recipient organizations and discovered a pattern of four characteristics that contribute to those hospitals’ success. These four characteristics include:

Patient-centered care is a priority

With the inception of value-based care, hospitals receive incentivized payments based on patient health outcomes. This care delivery model prompted many hospitals to expand or reorganize their quality departments and adopt a patient-centered care program. At the head of the department is the Chief Quality Officer (CQO), whose primary responsibility is re-designing the end-to-end care delivery process to put human connection and experience at the center.

This C-suite representation makes a significant impact on quality initiatives and strategies by providing meaningful data to the organization. Experience officers improve the system’s ability to gauge quality efforts and drive change. Analyzing this critical information introduces core measures that effectively improve the patient experience and outcomes. With a quality/experience agent in the C-suite, top hospitals establish processes for clinical leaders to sustain. These quality structures and tactics address the most critical issues for efficiently and effectively promoting more patient-centered care.

Utilization of evidence-based decision-making

There are thousands of metrics and measures that influence quality, and it can be difficult to identify sources of variation and discover improvement opportunities. America’s Best Hospitals are managing their data and analyzing it to make informed decisions.

For example, Delray Medical Center, an America’s 50 Best Hospitals award recipient, has implemented the following initiatives:

  • Electronic order sets, protocols, and tools to help medical and hospital staff stay up-to-date on evidence-based medicine to make the best care decisions
  • Daily huddles for multi-disciplinary teams to review quality measures and evidence-based clinical care  

Instilling a culture of collaboration

Quality improves when all stakeholders are working together with a shared goal in mind. America’s Best Hospitals emphasize the importance of collaboration. Creating an environment of accountability with highly-engaged physicians, nurses, board members, and patients and their families will drive impactful cultural change both inside and outside the organization. This collective approach focuses on the humanized delivery of care that best serves the community while concurrently providing support for the clinical teams.

Driving meaningful human connections across the entire health system and service line will enable hospitals to perform at high-levels and improve retention and growth consistently. To truly transform experience and quality, there must be a commitment from the top of the organization to give these disciplines a seat at the executive table.

Actively engaging consumers and patients

Healthcare consumers are eager for information and insights to help guide them during their decision-making journey. Hospitals must respond to consumer demand for more personalization and convenience at every stage of their journey, from research, to scheduling an appointment, to follow-up. The best health systems have invested in new technology and partnerships to actively engage and interact with patients and empower them to take control of their health and care.

Today’s healthcare consumer is taking a more active role in their health journey. Consumerism in healthcare continues to advance at a rapid pace, and health systems are scrambling to invest in consumer engagement strategies to empower patients to become active participants in their care.

Patients and prospective patients are conducting thorough research about their health condition(s), treatment options, and providers with the best clinical outcomes. This rise in consumerism is challenging health systems to deliver a more personalized experience for consumers during their decision-making journey and utilize multiple communication channels to reach them.

Healthgrades identifies America’s Best Hospitals and stratifies performance into two categories: America’s 50 Best Hospitals and America’s 100 Best Hospitals.

The America’s 50 Best Hospitals award recognized 50 hospitals at the top 1% in the nation for consistent clinical excellence based on an analysis of risk-adjusted mortality and complication rates for common procedures and conditions. These hospitals have received a Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence™ for at least seven consecutive years.

The America’s 100 Best Hospitals award recognizes the top 100 hospitals that received the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence each year for at least the last five consecutive years. The list is made up of those hospitals that were identified as America’s 50 Best Hospitals as described above, with the addition of the next 50 top hospitals, identified by consecutive years of achieving the Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence and volume-weighted average z-score. These hospitals are recognized in the top 2% in the nation for consistent clinical quality.

1 Heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, respiratory failure, sepsis, and stroke. Based on Healthgrades analysis of treatments across 19 rated conditions and procedures where mortality is the outcome.
2 Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart attack, pneumonia, sepsis, and stroke.  As reported by Healthgrades in Hospital Choice: Your Life May Depend on It, 2016.