Rankings: MGH Down From Top Spot To No. 2, McLean Leads In Psych

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Last year when the annual hospital rankings by U.S. News and World Report came out, Massachusetts General Hospital ranked No. 1 in the nation and threw itself a party, including a celebratory duck boat parade.

Massachusetts General Hospital (Steven Senne/AP)
Massachusetts General Hospital (Steven Senne/AP)

This year, MGH, a Partners HealthCare hospital, was ranked No. 2 in the country, after Johns Hopkins, according to the just-released U.S. News tally:

Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital reclaimed the No. 1 spot after last year losing a 21-year reign to Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital.

As far as we know, there will be no parade this summer.

On the upside, McLean Hospital in Belmont, also under the Partners umbrella, was ranked as the overall best hospital for psychiatry. The region's dominant health system also operates a number of other hospitals that ranked high on the U.S. News list, according to a news release:

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), the founders of Partners HealthCare, rank among the nation’s top ten hospitals on the U.S. News & World Report annual Honor Roll of America’s Best Hospitalsfor the seventh consecutive year. MGH ranked second in the nation and BWH ranked ninth.

Another two Partners hospitals – McLean Hospital and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital were also recognized for national excellence. McLean Hospital was ranked first in the nation in psychiatry and Spaulding Rehabilitation was ranked sixth for rehabilitation. The rankings, now available online, will be published in the magazine's August issue as part of it 2013-2014 Best Hospitals guide.

U.S. News also ranked hospitals by region. In addition to the national ranking listed above, MGH and BWH earned recognition as the #1 and #2 hospitals respectively in the Boston area. In the regional rankings, Partners’ Newton-Wellesley Hospital and North Shore Medical Center also earned distinctions.

The U.S. News rankings remain controversial, with ongoing discussions and critiques about how valuable they truly are as a barometer of overall quality.  Malcolm Gladwell's seminal New Yorker article on college rankings (which also looked at other U.S. News rankings, including hospitals) raised questions about methodology, among other issues.

A study earlier this month by researchers at the U.C. Davis School of Medicine analyzing the U.S. News rankings of primary care at medical schools also questioned the system, suggesting that a hospital's "reputation" may have undue influence.

Last week, in a blog post called "The fallacy of medical school rankings," William C. McGaghie, director of the Leischner Institute for the Loyola University Chicago Health Sciences Division wrote:

More than a decade ago, in 2001, Jason Thompson and I concluded our critique of the USN & WR rankings of American medical schools with this statement:

“The annual U.S. News & World report rankings of U.S. medical schools are ill-conceived; are unscientific; are conducted poorly; ignore the value of school accreditation; judge medical school quality from a narrow, elitist perspective; do not consider social and professional outcomes in program quality calculations; and fail to meet basic standards of journalistic ethics. The U.S. medical education community, higher education scholars, the journalism profession, and the public should ignore this annual marketing shell game.”

My conclusions have not changed, despite the staying power of the USN & WR rankings.

This program aired on July 16, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Rachel Zimmerman Twitter Health Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for Bostonomix.