This year's U.S. News rankings showcase 732 Best Regional Hospitals, winnowed from nearly 4,800 hospitals nationwide. Here's how they were selected and ranked in their respective states and metropolitan areas.
The methodology behind the 2012-13 Best Hospitals national rankings is also used to recognize Best Regional Hospitals. The national rankings encompass 16 medical specialties, and up to 50 hospitals (infrequently 51 or 52 in the event of ties) are ranked in each specialty. Additional hospitals in a specialty are recognized as high-performing. Hospitals that are either nationally ranked or high-performing in at least one specialty are recognized as Best Regional Hospitals.
In 12 specialties, a hospital must be in the top 25 percent of all hospitals that qualified for possible national ranking, and thus received a U.S. News Score, by meeting various standards that included specialty-specific minimums for patient volume. In Cancer, for example, 901 hospitals in the original 4,793-hospital universe qualified to receive a U.S. News Score this year, and only 25 percent of those were ranked or recognized as high-performing in Cancer.
In the other four specialties—Ophthalmology, Psychiatry, Rehabilitation, and Rheumatology—the rankings are based solely on hospitals' reputations with surveyed medical specialists; hospitals are recognized as high-performing if they received nominations from at least 3 percent of the responding specialists. (Hospitals nominated by 5 percent or more of specialists are nationally ranked.)
The number of high-performing hospitals by specialty: Cancer (176), Cardiology & Heart Surgery (130), Diabetes & Endocrinology (232), Ear, Nose & Throat (122), Gastroenterology (342), Geriatrics (333), Gynecology (232), Nephrology (366), Neurology & Neurosurgery (283), Ophthalmology (7), Orthopedics (362), Psychiatry (14), Pulmonology (365), Rehabilitation (9), Rheumatology (7), and Urology (326).
This year, U.S. News recognized Best Regional Hospitals at three geographic levels: states, metro areas, and other regions.
First, all Best Regional Hospitals were recognized within their respective state by being given a numerical State Rank, provided that the state has two or more such hospitals and that at least one of them is either nationally ranked in at least one specialty or high-performing in at least four specialties.
Eight states did not meet these criteria: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Mississippi, Nevada, Vermont, and Wyoming. Best Regional Hospitals in those states were recognized but did not receive a numerical State Rank. The 2012-13 rankings are the first in which U.S. News has published state-by-state hospital rankings.
Second, counties and county equivalents (such as parishes) were grouped into regions. In all, U.S. News defined nearly 100 metropolitan areas and some 200 other regions that encompassed non-metropolitan areas. Most metro areas were defined in accordance with the U.S. Census Bureau's list of Metropolitan Statistical Areas. In three cases, U.S. News used Combined Statistical Areas, which extend somewhat farther, to enfold nearby smaller cities with nationally ranked hospitals. They are Detroit (to add Ann Arbor), Raleigh-Cary, N.C. (to add Durham and Chapel Hill to an expanded metro area renamed Raleigh-Durham), and Salt Lake City (to add Ogden).
The other regions were defined by U.S. News editors to approximate common usage and the boundaries of regional healthcare markets. Some metropolitan areas cross state lines; other regions do not.
A hospital may be recognized as a Best Regional Hospital in a metropolitan area, a non-metro region, or one of each, depending entirely on the county in which it's located. In metro areas with populations of 1 million or more in the 2010 U.S. Census, Best Regional Hospitals received a numerical Metro Rank, provided that the metro area has two or more such hospitals and that at least one is either nationally ranked in a specialty or high-performing in at least four specialties. Because of these criteria, hospitals in Birmingham (Ala.), Las Vegas, and Sacramento (Calif.), all of which have populations of 1 million or more, do not receive a numerical Metro Rank. In other regions, including metro areas with sub-1 million populations, Best Regional Hospitals are not ranked numerically.