Whether you’ve had a heart attack or you’re heading in for a hip replacement, it’s probably going to matter a lot to you which hospitals are the best at what they do — the U.S. News & World Report’s 2023-24 rankings are meant to tell you just that.
This year’s U.S. News report ranked Sacramento’s UC Davis Medical Center as the seventh-best hospital in California and the top hospital in the Sacramento region in its annual evaluation of more than 4,700 hospitals nationwide. The publication also included the seven Sacramento-area hospitals that met U.S. News’ criteria to be ranked among the region’s best.
The report rates medical institutions in a variety of ways, including by analyzing patient experience, risk-adjusted mortality rates, how successful they are at moving patients back home, specialties and each hospital’s success at performing specific procedures and treating certain conditions.
It also includes information about each institution’s health equity, or the degree to which a hospital’s patient demographic is representative of its community population.
Numerical rankings of the top hospitals nationwide were exchanged for an “honor roll” system, in which the 22 hospitals with the best rankings and the greatest number of high-performing procedure and condition ratings were recognized alphabetically. Five California hospitals made this year’s list, including:
▪ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles
▪ Stanford Health Care-Stanford Hospital
▪ UCLA Medical Center
▪ UC San Diego Health-La Jolla and Hillcrest Hospitals
▪ UCSF Health-UCSF Medical Center
“There’s an enormous amount of data that’s freely available,” Harder said. “They can look up hospitals in their community and identify not only whether they’re good, but also what they’re good at. And that’s really important because hospitals do have different strengths and weaknesses.”
How did Sacramento-area hospitals rank?
UC Davis Medical Center, which has ranked in the top 10 hospitals in the state for the past decade, placed seventh among its peers. It was the only capital region hospital to achieve national rankings for its specialty care, coming in 36th for cancer treatment, 27th for cardiology and heart and vascular surgery, 33rd for diabetes and endocrinology, 32nd for geriatrics, 44th for obstetrics and gynecology, 32nd for neurology and neurosurgery, 18th for ear, nose and throat treatment, and 27th for pulmonology and lung surgery.
“UC Davis Health has a years-long legacy of innovative research, training the next generation of health professionals and scientists, and providing patient-centered care,” Dr. David Lubarsky, vice chancellor of human health sciences and the CEO of UC Davis Health, said in a news release. “We are honored to be recognized for these efforts and are proud of the medical center’s contributions to our Northern California community as well as nationally and globally.”
Seven Sacramento-area hospitals met the U.S. News criteria to be ranked among the region’s best. Listed in order, they are UC Davis Medical Center; Sacramento’s Mercy General Hospital; Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael; Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento; Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center; Sutter Roseville Medical Center and Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. To earn a spot in the group, the hospitals had to earn a “high performing” designation in at least seven of the 21 procedures or conditions U.S. News evaluated.
Rankings for performing procedures, treating conditions
Each hospital also was listed as “high performing,” “average” or “not rated” for 21 common procedures and treatments, from heart attack to kidney failure.
The listing below identifies the procedures and conditions in which capital hospitals ranked as high-performing.
UC Davis Medical Center: heart failure, colon cancer surgery, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart attack, hip replacement, hip fracture, kidney failure, leukemia lymphoma and myeloma, lung cancer surgery, ovarian cancer surgery, pneumonia, prostate cancer surgery, stroke, transcatheter aortic valve replacement and uterine cancer surgery.
Mercy General: aortic valve surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, colon cancer surgery, COPD, diabetes, heart attack, kidney failure, knee replacement, leukemia lymphoma and myeloma, pneumonia, stroke and TAVR.
Mercy San Juan: heart failure, colon cancer surgery, COPD, diabetes, heart attack, kidney failure, knee replacement, leukemia lymphoma and myeloma, lung cancer surgery, pneumonia and stroke.
Sutter Medical: aortic valve surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart failure, heart attack, hip replacement, hip fracture, knee replacement, leukemia lymphoma and myeloma, prostate cancer surgery, stroke and TAVR.
Kaiser Permanente Roseville: heart failure, COPD, diabetes, heart attack, kidney failure, knee replacement, pneumonia and stroke.
Sutter Roseville: heart failure, colon cancer surgery, heart attack, hip replacement, knee replacement, lung cancer surgery, prostate cancer surgery and stroke.
Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento: heart failure, COPD, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer surgery, pneumonia, prostate cancer surgery and stroke.
Quantifying equity in health
Two years ago, the publication debuted its health equity measures and included a health equity report in its rankings for each hospital. This year, U.S. News continued to analyze data about the demographics of patients treated, including the data separately from the typical rankings of overall procedural and treatment outcomes.
The health equity data does not assign numerical rankings to hospitals, according to Harder, and it relies on “fully objective measurements” using Medicare data to evaluate whether there are disparities in the outcomes achieved by patients of different ethnicities, when adjusted for “risk,” or differences in the patients’ initial conditions, and how many patients are re-admitted after being discharged from the hospital, and after how long.
Harder also noted that many hospitals, especially high-ranking ones, treat a patient population that is wider than the surrounding community, so the patient-to-community diversity ratio may not entirely match up.
“Disparities in outcomes are, unfortunately, quite pervasive,” Harder said. “We (tried) to identify hospitals that were doing better on that dimension than their peers, knowing that the backdrop was pretty sizable racial disparity in outcomes.”
Harder said that in the future, U.S. News staff hopes to analyze data on physicians’ race and patient outcome, but haven’t been able to access a comprehensive source of data to do so.
“There’s this trove of data that we published,” Harder said. “You don’t have to subscribe, and you don’t have to give us your email address. You can just do research online, and then talk to your doctor to make sure that you’re making the right decision.”