With debate about health care reform raging in the United States, and especially with facts and fantasies flying through the airwaves as if they were interchangeable, the American public and the worldwide audience crave some solid information about the true state of healthcare in the United States. According to Dr. Bruce Keitel, senior fellow at the Academy of International Research, “The United States leads the world in medical research and development of advanced medicines, and the United States lags far behind the rest of the industrialized nations in providing quality healthcare to the majority of its citizens.” Keitel points out, for example, the United States ranks thirty-seventh in infant mortality, and it does not make the top ten nations in average life expectancy. “If the best of American healthcare were universally available, we would have a ‘world class system’,” Keitel concludes.
According to a variety of healthcare analysts, the top ten American hospitals include:
1. Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
For nineteen straight years, Johns Hopkins Hospital has appeared on the nation’s top ten list—an unprecedented and unrivalled record. Even more amazing, however, is the inescapable, undeniable, incontrovertible fact that Johns Hopkins keeps getting better every year—by every measure. In 2009, Carol Greider, a Johns Hopkins researcher, shared the Nobel Prize in medicine, while the hospital had the good sense and insight to let patients become fans on Facebook, and the staff helped Olympic Figure Skating legend Dorothy Hamill overcome breast cancer. According to Keitel and other tough analysts, “There’s special confidence that accompanies being the best, and Johns Hopkins shows its confidence by standing out as by far the nation’s friendliest hospital. Not intellectual, academic, or high-fallutin’ in any way. Just plain friendly.”
2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota
A legend among healthcare institutions worldwide, the Mayo Clinic has treated celebrities and heads of state along with everyday working people from all around the United States and the world. US News and World Report ranks the Mayo Clinic as the nation’s best for orthopedic care. Impressive as the ranking may seem, patients’ own reports reveal a great deal more. “I felt like a real-life episode of ‘House’,” says Margaret Williams of Rockwell Maryland. “The best doctors and researchers in all of the greater D.C. area could not figure out what was wrong with me. I had some kind of digestive disorder that caused me to lose more than a pound a week, and I was growing weak, exhausted, and very afraid.” Williams details how the Mayo Clinic specialists quickly, accurately identified a rare disease which affects only 200 people worldwide every year, and they performed a very little-known, even more rarely practiced surgical technique, which cured the problem. “Nothing short of miraculous,” Williams testifies.
3. Cleveland Clinic
Cleveland Clinic has attracted a great deal of attention during the healthcare reform debates, because congressional leaders and administration officials have promoted it as a “model of institutional efficiency and effectiveness.” Effectively capitalizing on internet and wireless technology for managing, monitoring, and tracking every aspect of patient care, Cleveland Clinic simultaneously has cut its administrative overhead and improved the quality of care. Just as importantly, it has eliminated the system’s antiquated fee-for-service model, putting all of its professionals on salary, and maximizing their productivity. The Cleveland Clinic does not place as much emphasis on research as the other facilities in the top ten, but it gives much higher priority to educating medical students and residents, especially stressing patient-centered and family-oriented care.
4. Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles
“Dazzling,” people say. “Overwhelming. Breathtaking,” even more people say. “An architectural and scientific masterpiece,” the critics say. Big, brand new, and state-of-the-art in every way, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center rises ten stories above the southwest corner of Westwood Plaza, offering more than a million square feet of patient-friendly, family-friendly, high-tech space for people from around the world. Designed by legendary architect I.M.Pei and built with the assistance of his equally gifted son C.C.Pei, the center seamlessly integrates post-modern technology with interior spaces that maximize holistic healing and personal attention. “Eventually, all hospitals will look, feel, and work like this one,” says Keitel.
5. University of California, San Francisco Medical Center
Like all the other top ten care providers, UCSF contributes to prestigious journals, conducts extensive clinical trials, performs experimental techniques on desperately ill patients, and trains physicians, nurses, and pharmacists to serve California and the world. Its distinction, however, derives from its dedication to diversity and community medicine. Like Massachusetts General, UCSF serves the city’s disadvantaged citizens. Above and beyond that service, however, UCSF keeps an open mind and an open ear to the community’s bio-medical concerns, and much of its best research traces its deepest origins to common concerns “in the neighborhood.” Not surprisingly, UCSF has done ground-breaking research in the treatment of HIV-AIDS. More recently, however, UCSF researchers have led intelligent discussion of how to treat “Gender Identity Disorder” as a psychological problem and as a concern for endocrinologists. UCSF’s cutting-edge research has had profound influence on South African officials’ management of the delicate and often sensationalized case of their “inter-sexed” female track star.
6. Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
Not every hospital can give you access to a Nobel Prize winner; Mass General can. In 2009, Dr. Jack Szostak, a staffer at Mass General, won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the enzyme that coats and protects the tips of chromosomes. Exceptional as Szostak’s accomplishment is, it is not altogether unusual for physicians, clinicians, and researchers at Boston’s leading healthcare provider. The facility receives more NIH grants than almost all other hospitals in the country, it excels at more specialties than most of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, and it arguably does more to serve Boston’s disadvantaged citizens than any comparable institution anywhere in the United States.
7. New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia and Cornell
Readers of the annual healthcare rankings in US News and World Report recognize how rigorous healthcare analysts and evaluators rate the quality of patient care in approximately a dozen categories as they determine which American hospitals stand out as the best. Very few healthcare facilities excel at even the majority of these specialties. New York-Presbyterian enjoys the distinction and privilege of standing nearly alone, the one academic healthcare center that does it all, and does all of it equally well. “Presbyterian” also claims the distinction of placing more of its physicians on the list of the nation’s top doctors than any other hospital in the country.
8. Duke University Medical Center, Durham, North Carolina
Analysts and evaluators acknowledge Duke’s leadership in research, but they generally award extra credit for a subtle but remarkable initiative to change values within the American healthcare system: Duke accords nurses and its school of nursing equal attention and equal standing with physicians and biomedical researchers. And the Duke University community attaches as much importance to Duke’s standing as the nation’s best provider of nursing care as it gives to Duke’s long history of technological and therapeutic breakthroughs. Evaluators also acknowledge Duke’s significant initiatives for correcting inequalities in the community’s access to high-quality care.
9. Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
The medical school at the University of Pennsylvania was the nation’s first, and always has numbered among its best. More importantly, widely acclaimed as the nation’s leading provider of nursing care, Penn Medicine frequently makes medical history. Its exceptionally skilled surgeons have pioneered techniques in cardiac treatments, neurosurgery, and cancer therapies. Penn researchers also have developed new diagnostic tests and procedures to assure greater efficiency and accuracy. Even with their emphasis on research and development, however, Penn professionals take greatest pride in their hands-on, patient-centered care.
10. University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle
Combining the facilities and professional networks of the University of Washington Medical Center and the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the UW system treats more than a million outpatients every year and admits more than 40,000 patients. Like all centers of academic medicine, UW affords patients the benefits of advanced techniques administered by the world’s finest physicians, surgeons, therapists, and certified practitioners. The system especially encourages professionals to collaborate in inter-disciplinary teams, and it takes pride in its family-friendly facilities, which are designed to make family members feel like equal partners in the system’s care for their loved ones.