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St. Luke's Will No Longer Participate in U.S. News Hospital Rankings, Citing 'Misguided Methodology' | WDIY Local News

St. Luke's University Hospital-Bethlehem Campus
Contributed photo
St. Luke's University Health Network
St. Luke's University Hospital-Bethlehem Campus

A local health network says it will no longer participate in an annual ranking of hospitals after questioning the system’s methodology.

St. Luke’s University Health Network said it will no longer respond to requests for data from U.S. News & World Report, which compiles an annual ranking of hospitals.

In a May 24 letter sent to the organization, The network said it disagreed with U.S. News’s 2022-23 Best Hospitals in Pennsylvania rankings, which placed St. Luke’s University Hospital-Bethlehem Campus in eighth place.

This was tied with Reading Hospital, part of Tower Health. Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, part of Lehigh Valley Health Network, placed seventh on the list.

St. Luke’s said the rankings were “seriously flawed” and based on “misguided methodology.”

In its letter the health network pointed to a February 2023 article from U.S. News which said that the rankings were partially based on subjective opinions from physicians, which St. Luke’s called a “popularity contest.”

The U.S. News article did state that its 2023-24 rankings “will assign more weight to clinical outcomes and other objective measures of quality,” and less weight to the opinion surveys.

The organization said the shift “reflects our ongoing effort to use more objective data in our hospital ranking methodologies,” and came after discussions with a number of stakeholders including hospital leaders and medical experts.

However, St. Luke’s letter said that despite the reduction, U.S. News’s “ongoing reliance on subjective criteria” is “ill-advised,” and leads to misleading results.

St. Luke’s also said the ranking system does not include a “balanced performance scorecard for the cost of care,” and weighs the availability of certain services too heavily.

It also said the ranking methodology places an “undue emphasis” on mortality and does not appropriately weigh patients treated for chronic illnesses.

St. Luke’s also pointed to its accomplishments and recognitions by other organizations which it said were based on objective metrics, data gathered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and other independent parties.

St. Luke’s concluded its message by stating that “it would appear USNWR rankings are intended to generate marketing revenue, rather than serve as a guide to quality.”

The letter was signed by St. Luke’s President and CEO Richard Anderson, and the network’s vice president and chief quality officer, Donna Sabol.

U.S. News and World Report publishes its methodology on its website, and said its rankings should be taken as a “starting point” for decision making, adding that patient care decisions should also include consultations with medical professionals.

St. Luke’s is not the only hospital system in Pennsylvania to have withdrawn from the U.S. News & World Report hospital rankings.

On June 26, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, part of Penn Medicine, announced in a release that it would also stop actively participating in the ranking process.

CEO Kevin Mahoney said in a statement that the “Best Hospital” rankings, “don’t account for all of the elements essential to improving patient outcomes, such as research, innovation, or value-based care.”

Penn Medicine said U.S. News & World Report’s rankings are solely based on inpatient hospital care of people insured by Medicare, and that they “also do not reflect the field’s shift toward outpatient medicine.”

The health system said it is “committed to annual publication of consistent, objective performance metrics.”

Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian was ranked number one on U.S. News’s 2022-23 Best Hospitals in Pennsylvania list.

(Original air-date: 6/29/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.