More than 1,050 physicians took time this year to respond to our annual Best Hospitals survey by telling us which hospitals they would recommend in their specialty for the most challenging patients. Their nominations will play a role in the 2013-14 Best Hospitals rankings, which are scheduled for release in mid-July. The late Bernadine Healy, our former health editor and prior to that a noted cardiologist and director of the National Institutes of Health, often said she considered the reputational survey an important form of peer review.
For Best Hospitals, we select a random sample of 200 board-certified specialists in each of 16 adult specialties from cancer to urology. We then ask them to name up to 10 hospitals they consider the best for inpatients who demand an especially high level of expertise because of their medical condition or the procedure required, and we instruct the doctors to ignore cost and location. RTI International, a major consulting organization in Triangle, N.C., that assembles the Best Hospitals and Best Children's Hospitals rankings for U.S. News, directs the survey and tabulates the results.
In 12 of the 16 specialties, reputation, averaged over three years, makes up 32.5 percent of a hospital's score. The other 67.5 percent comes from hard data such as mortality, nurse staffing, patient volume, and safety. Rank in the remaining four specialties—ophthalmology, psychiatry, rehabilitation, rheumatology—is based solely on the reputational survey results because deaths are rare, or the specialty has few inpatients, or meaningful data don't exist.
Mirroring the results of the Best Children's Hospitals reputational survey that closed last month, the overall response rate to the Best Hospitals survey, at 34 percent, was within less than two percentage points of the previous year's. More than 46 percent of the surveyed otolarygologists responded, which put the ear, nose and throat specialists at the top according to submissions by specialty. By region, the Midwest had the highest percentage of responders across all specialties at 37 percent; middlewesterners also held sway in the Best Children's Hospitals survey. Physicians based in hospitals were more likely to respond than those in office-based practices.
Heartfelt thanks to all.