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Can Rankings Empower Patients to Make Better Choices?

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A wise medical student once remarked, “rankings are important because Americans like lists.”  Magazines promising to provide the low-down on the top 10 songs, best movies, most beautiful beaches, most talented chefs, the top colleges are guaranteed to sell. Lists provide a starting point for people to make decisions when they have many options to choose from.  Americans want to believe that in a capitalist society, they should be able to find and pick the best value their budget can afford. 

For rankings to be useful, two things have to be true.  First, people have to have a choice they can make.  Second, the rankings have to measure what is important to people making the choices.  Beyond that are pesky details like validity and reliability of the data but let’s just deal with the high level assumptions.   Choice and values in health care.  Do rankings like US News & World Report’s Americas Best Hospitals help consumers make good choices? Continue reading