A Cardiologist “Ranks” Heart Center Rankings

Evan Levine, MD, a cardiologist, gives his rationale on which parts of US News & World Report's hospital rankings matter most.

What to look for when reviewing heart surgery centers in U.S. News Rankings?

“For more than 30 years, the mission of U.S. News & World Report’s Annual Best Hospitals rankings has been to help guide patients, in consultation with their doctors, to the right hospital when they need care.”

“For most illnesses, patients do not need to go to an Honor Roll hospital, which may require traveling away from home and paying expenses for out-of-network care. All rankings and ratings should be seen as just a starting point for patients considering where to seek care with input from their doctors. Individual diagnosis, insurance coverage and priorities are important factors in making a personal best choice.”


I decided to take close look at the rankings for Cardiology and Heart Surgery.

Heart surgery is very complex and the latest procedures while worded minimally invasive or repair instead of replace are often far more complex and dependent on expertise than a simple coronary artery bypass.

Not everyone can get to a top 25 rated heart center. Most of the other centers are then rated average in rankings. For those hospitals I suggest looking at the reviews more carefully.

Survival 30 days after being admitted relative to other hospitals treating similarly complex conditions? I would look for a 5 bar rating here.


Patient experience – Reflects opinions of inpatients completing a government-endorsed survey in 2020 about the overall quality of their stay.

This tells a lot and may reflect quality of service, staffing, and other complications.

Just because patients made it out of the hospital and survived past 30 days doesn’t mean they had a good outcome.


Just because patients made it out of the hospital and survived past 30 days doesn't mean they had a good outcome. Click To Tweet


Public Transparency — This is a yes or No.

No means the hospital does NOT disclose their cardiovascular data, including complications, that they filed with the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

Are they hiding a poor record? Are they afraid to show their complication rates? No disclosure to me is a red flag.


Are they hiding a poor record? Are they afraid to show their complication rates? No disclosure to me is a red flag (on interpreting #hospital rankings) Click To Tweet


Nurse Staffing– Studies conclusively show that better nurse staffing ratios improve patient outcomes.


Expert opinion– A good or better rating tells you that cardiologist and heart surgeons feel the hospital is among the best for challenging patients.

I’m not so sure if this is a very helpful rating since opinions can be biased and hospitals with more cardiologists may have more votes to make for themselves.


How to Interpret Cardiology Rankings, By a Cardiologist


The three hidden gems in this report, when looking at hospitals outside the top 25 in heart are patient experience, public transparency, and nurse staffing.

I include an unnamed hospital with an average rating to provide you a reference, above. The red X under public transparency means they don’t show their outcome data to the public. They also had a below average patient experience and poor nurse staffing.


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