U.S. News & World Report is postponing the public release of its annual hospital rankings after it discovered errors in the data used to compile its report, according to an email obtained by STAT.
The rankings were to be released Aug. 1. But the email, signed by U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly and chief of health analysis, Ben Harder, explained that the errors require a review of rankings, which had already been released to hospitals under embargo. The new publication date will be Aug. 8, according to the email.
The U.S. News rankings are closely watched by hospitals, which often trumpet their high ratings in marketing materials. This year, the publication sought to revise its methodology to adjust its findings to account for the socioeconomic status of a hospital’s patients and other factors that might affect the rankings.
The email indicates errors were found after the publication shared results with hospitals on July 11.
“While these changes … allow us to better assess hospital care, they are complex to implement and we discovered errors late in the process,” stated the email, which was sent to participating hospitals. “We are confident that once correctly implemented these changes will benefit our shared goal of providing patients with better information about their health care.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for U.S. News said, “Ensuring the accuracy of the information we release to the public is of the utmost importance.”
The hospitals analysis is based on a physician survey and patient safety and outcome data reported to the government and trade groups. U.S. News also ranks hospitals by procedure and by specialty areas, and it breaks down the top performers by region. Thousands of hospitals are included in the rankings and receive assessments from high performing to below average.
The email sent to hospitals explains that the errors in this year’s analysis relate to 12 data-driven specialties the publication reviews. It says that all the current rankings will be removed from a shared online dashboard and that hospitals will be given an update midweek.
U.S. News is one of many organizations that seek to use data from hospitals to assess and rank their performance. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also maintains a website that offers star ratings of 4,000 U.S. hospitals.
Though such reports are meant to be helpful to consumers, they sometimes provide conflicting information. Last year, the information from CMS contrasted sharply with the rankings complied by U.S. News and World report. Of U.S. News’s top five hospitals, only one, Mayo Clinic, was given a five-star rating from CMS. The rest — Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, UCLA Medical Center, and Johns Hopkins — were not even in CMS’s top 100.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the U.S. News & World Report hospital rankings were initially scheduled to be released on July 18.