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U.S. News and World Report has released its 2006 list of America's best hospitals. Just 14 of the nation's 5,189 facilities earned enough points to make the honor roll. Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md., ranked number one overall for the 16th year in a row; the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio, ranked first in cardiac care.


However, a new study published in Circulation challenges the reliability of these popular annual rankings with regard to cardiac care. Conducted by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), the study found that many hospitals not making the U.S. News and World Report list also provide excellent cardiovascular care.


The JCAHO studied 774 accredited hospitals that submitted data on heart attack and heart failure management to the JCAHO. Forty-one of these were ranked by U.S. News and World Report as among the 50 best hospitals for cardiac treatment and surgery. The researchers reported that 13 hospitals not making the list were better at following standard cardiac treatment guidelines than any of the top 41 hospitals identified by the magazine. In addition, 313 nonranked hospitals did as well at adhering to evidence-based care practices as the top half of the magazine's "best" hospitals.


Researcher Jerod M. Loeb, PhD, says the study is "good news for many Americans who may not have access to those highly rated institutions."


Source: Performance of top-ranked heart care hospitals on evidence-based process measures, Circulation, SC Williams, et al., August 8, 2006.