Words of caution regarding hospital ratings:
It’s important to realize that there is no standard methodology used by hospital ratings sites, so you should take the information provided “with a grain of salt”.
An August 2019 article in NEJM Catalyst reports on an analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of 4 major hospital quality rating systems. The researchers found several issues they feel limit the value and accuracy of the examined rating systems, including: limited and/or flawed data and measures, lack of robust data audits, and a lack of formal peer reviews. These issues can lead to a misclassification of hospital performance.
Options for Evaluating Doctors, Hospitals and Other Care Facilities
American Board of Medical Specialties
This non-profit organization oversees the Certification of doctors. Doctors who are Certified in a field have proven their expertise and committed to on-going training to stay up-to-date with the latest advances in medicine and patient care. You can search the site to see if your doctor is Certified in a specific specialty. You can also search the site with any combination of search criteria (example – city or specialty) to find a Certified doctor in your area. You must join the site to search for doctors; membership is free.
Angie’s List has crowd-sourced reviews and ratings for doctors and medical groups. The information includes an overall rating (A-F) and ratings on a variety of categories, including effectiveness of treatment, bedside manner, communication and availability. For individual doctors, you can see their educational history, their specialty and list of accepted insurance plans. Users can also leave written reviews with detailed information.
This site, run by the nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook, allows you to search by geographic location to find information on doctors. They survey all actively practicing physicians in the 53 largest metropolitan areas in the US and ask them which one or two doctors in each of 38 specialty fields they “would consider most desirable for care of a loved one.” Their database provides the names of physicians who were mentioned most often by other area physicians—and the number of times they were mentioned.
Additionally, in certain cities (Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, Seattle-Tacoma, Twin Cities, and Washington, DC) you can also see how doctors were rated by surveyed patients.
NOTE – Their site with information on over 50,000 surgeons for 12 common surgical procedures is coming soon. You will be able to find information for each surgeon regarding the likelihood of a better-than-average outcome, if they have been recommended by fellow doctors, their board-certification(s), and if their hospital is highly rated for the procedure in question.
For hospital reviews: this site collects, aggregates and summarizes real-time twitter and social media posts from the public tweeting and posting on the quality of healthcare they receive. Search by hospital name to read tweets and posts. A chart for each hospital shows a breakdown of posts into 3 categories: positive, negative and neutral.
DocInfo by The Federation of State Medical Boards
You can look up certification, education, active licenses, medical specialty and any disciplinary actions taken against the doctor. You can also find information on how to file a complaint against a doctor, and find the contact information for your state’s Medical Board.
Eldercare Locator by the US Department of Health and Human Services
By typing in your zip code, city, or state, you can find contact information for local area agencies on aging, state agencies on aging, health insurance counseling programs, legal services, and the Long-Term Care Ombudsman.
This independent healthcare ratings organization provides reports on 750,000 physicians and 5,000 hospitals. Find information on specialties, training, years of practice, certifications, malpractice suits and more. You can also see patient reviews and ratings. Search for doctors by name or specialty; search for hospitals by procedure/diagnosis or by award category.
Hospital Safety Score
This site is operated by The Leapfrog Group, a non-profit organization dedicated to driving quality, safety and transparency in the US healthcare system. They provide reports on process and structural issues and outcome measures. A hospital safety score is provided for each hospital, taking into account issues such as infection prevention programs, protocols for preventing errors and patient safety programs. You can see detailed measures on a wide range of safety and quality issues.
International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers
This non-profit organization maintains a database of licensed, English speaking doctors and clinics in 90 countries. Advice on health related travel topics is also included. You must join to access the database. Membership is free the first year, after which you may renew with a tax deductible contribution (of any amount).
The Joint Commission Quality Check
This non-profit organization accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health care organizations and programs in the US. On this site, you can find organizations in your area that have achieved the gold seal of approval from the Joint Commission. You can also find “gold seal of approval” hospitals in other countries on their WorldHospitalSearch.org.
The Leapfrog Group
This site provides safety information on more than 2,500 US hospitals, which are graded on their ability to prevent errors, accidents, injuries and infections. Information provided includes ratings on prevention of medication errors, adequacy of ICU staffing, steps taken to avoid harm and management of serious errors.
Medicare Care Compare Site
Medicare created one site offering quality metrics for facilities, providers and services. The site offers extensive information to help you make decisions regarding where to obtain care. The site contains very helpful information on:
- Doctors and clinicians
- Nursing homes
- Home health services
- Hospice care
- Inpatient rehab facilities
- Long-term care hospitals
- Dialysis centers
Medicare List of Special Focus Facilities (SFF) Nursing Homes
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) maintains a list of nursing homes that have had a history of serious quality issues. These facilities have more problems than other nursing homes (about twice the average number of deficiencies), have more serious problems than most other nursing homes (including harm or injury experienced by residents), and have a pattern of serious problems that has persisted over a long period of time (as measured over the 3 years before the date the nursing home was first put on the SFF list).
Find the February 2020 list of SFF homes here. Additionally, this report list includes a list of nursing homes they consider candidates for SFF classification.
ProPublica Vital Signs
This site is run by ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism. You can look up doctors on this site to see if they are currently barred from participating in Federal health programs. You can also see if they receive money from drug and device companies, and if so, how much money and with what frequency. Although this information could indicate that the doctor is biased towards prescribing drugs and devices from a particular company, the payments may not influence the doctor’s behavior. Have a conversation with your doctor based on the information you find.
State Medical Boards of Registration
Each state in the US has its own Medical Board of Registration where you can find information on a doctor’s board certifications, board actions, criminal convictions and medical malpractice claims. Find your state’s board by searching for “Medical Board of Registration” and the name of your state. Information available will vary for each state.
U.S. News and World Report – for Hospitals
This site is a service of U.S. News and World Report. They have analyzed data from 5,000 hospitals for 25 adult specialties/conditions and 10 pediatric specialties. See rankings for these specialties in the following categories: overall ranking, reputation among physicians/specialists, level of nurse staffing, survival rates, patient safety, and patient volume. You can find their national rankings in each category.
U.S. News and World Report – for Nursing Homes
This site, a service of U.S. News and World Report, provides reports on over 15,000 nursing homes in the US. Information on nursing home includes an overall score, as well as ratings on levels of nurses and other staff; ratings on issues such as rates of bedsore, ER visits, hospitalizations, use of antipsychotic drugs; rate of substantiated complaints; federal government ratings; and records on health inspections. You can search for the “Best Nursing Homes” by state.
The site provides free reports to help you evaluate doctors. You’ll find information on doctor’s training, hospital affiliation, board certification, patient ratings and more.