When a patient needs a doctor with specific expertise—a heart specialist, for example—his current doctor may suggest one. If she doesn't have the name of a trusted cardiologist at the tip of her tongue, she'll probably turn to her colleagues for their input. Such is the nature of how patients and doctors often find top medical specialists. And it's the guiding principle behind the peer-nomination process used to compile Top Doctors.
U.S. News Top Doctors was developed in collaboration with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., publisher of America's Top Doctors® and other guides, and was built upon data from Castle Connolly's Top Doctors™. The goals of the new project are twofold.
First, we want to help consumers find the doctors who can best address their needs. That's why Top Doctors are identified by location and by hospital affiliation, across a wide range of specialties and subspecialties and for over 2,000 diseases, medical issues, and procedures.
Second, we want to enlist doctors across the country in sharing their awareness of who among their peers are the most worthy of referral. Their collective wisdom, available at usnews.com, will contribute to a growing knowledge base that extends and complements doctors' longstanding tradition of seeking recommendations from a convenient sample of their trusted colleagues. Any licensed doctor can nominate peers at the link below:
In the past, Castle Connolly often obtained nominations by conducting geographically targeted outreach, for example, to doctors in private practice and the medical leadership at more than 1,500 hospitals in many cities. The online nomination process has now been significantly expanded to be nationwide. Now any licensed doctor in the country can make nominations at any time. Each participating doctor can nominate up to 10 other doctors in his or her own specialty and up to 3 per specialty in other specialties.
Below are several frequently asked questions and answers regarding Top Doctors.
How has U.S. News determined which physicians qualify as Top Doctors?
By teaming up with Castle Connolly, a New York City-based company that has worked for nearly two decades to identify the nation's top doctors. Castle Connolly bases its Top Doctors selections on nominations submitted by other doctors and reviewed by its physician-led research team.
Do doctors apply to be Top Doctors?
No. There is no application process. Any doctor may nominate one or more peers, but doctors cannot nominate themselves.
Can a doctor pay to be named a Top Doctor?
No. Doctors do not and cannot pay U.S. News or Castle Connolly to be selected as Top Doctors. Nor can doctors' employers—such as hospitals or group practices—pay to have their doctors selected.
Does Top Doctors recognize all of the nation's best physicians?
Not yet. Castle Connolly has identified more than 31,000 excellent doctors. But with close to 800,000 physicians in America, more are surely worthy of the recognition. In pockets of the country, a Top Doctor has yet to be identified, in some cases because an insufficient number of nominations have been submitted. U.S. News, in partnership with Castle Connolly, will expand Top Doctors as additional nominations from doctors provide us with more data.
What is the relationship between the Best Hospitals methodology and Top Doctors?
There isn't any. The two methodologies are completely separate. While Top Doctors and Best Hospitals complement each other by helping users find the best healthcare, neither project affects the selections or ranking methodology of the other.
The results of Top Doctors also differs from those of U.S. News rankings such as Best Hospitals, Best Medical Schools, and Best Diets in important respects. A key difference is that Top Doctors are not ranked. No single cardiologist, oncologist, or other specialist can be the No. 1 doctor for all patients with heart disease, cancer, or any other medical condition. Fundamentally, Top Doctors is a data-rich directory of excellent doctors, coupled with sophisticated searching and sorting tools, to help each consumer and each referring doctor address a particular need.
Updated on April 10, 2012: References to the number of physicians in the Top Doctors directory have been updated.