ROCHESTER, Minn. — Mayo Clinic found itself with another feather in its cap this week when it was named the best hospital in the world by Newsweek.
It was also one of 11 hospitals in the U.S. to make its top-50 ranking.
Mayo took the top spot, followed by Cleveland Clinic and Massachusetts General Hospital. Other U.S. hospitals in the top 50 list included University of Michigan Hospitals — Michigan Medicine (15), Brigham and Women's Hospital (17), UCSF Medical Center (22), and Stanford Health Care — Stanford Hospital (35).
In creating its "World's Best Hospitals 2020" list, Newsweek said it partnered with global data research company Statista to rank the leading hospitals in 21 countries.
Newsweek said the rankings were based on recommendations from medical experts, including physicians and other health care professionals, patient survey results, and medical key performance indicators from a variety of public sources.
Mayo Clinic has long cherished its No. 1 ranking in U.S. News & World Report's annual "Best Hospitals Honor Roll," a title it has claimed every year since 2016. And it has proudly bruited its top billing in press releases and marketing. But whether the No. 1 ranking has become old hat or furloughs have depopulated its media relations department, Mayo did not respond to an email seeking comment.
There is little doubt that such rankings bring enormous benefit to hospitals and clinics. People want to go to the No. 1 hospital, experts say.
Ryan Noland, president of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., said such rankings bring value both to Mayo Clinic and the Rochester economy. If Rochester is known for no other thing, it's health care that puts it on the map.
"I've got friends from around the country, and when they ask, 'Where do you live?' And I say, 'Rochester,' and they go, 'Where's that?' 'That's home of Mayo Clinic,'" then, they know, he said.
Yet some experts are skeptical of how such rankings can be so finely drawn. Hospitals are enormously complex institutions, and they can be judged by a wide variety of measures. What measures are chosen and how they are weighted can be hotly debated.
"It's not like buying a washing machine," said Dr. Roy Poses, president of the Foundation for Integrity and Responsibility in Medicine and the author of the blog Health Care Renewal. "It's complicated."
"It's a whole bunch of stuff (by which a hospital can be measured), all of which has some validity, all of which has some problems. You mash it all together, and what do you get? I don't know," he said.
Poses doesn't quibble with the hospitals on the list. All are quality, well-known, teaching hospitals and, with the exception of Mayo, located in large metro areas. But why Massachusetts General is ranked No. 3 and ahead of Stanford Health Care at No. 35 is less clear to him.
"It's a very challenging thing to measure quality of care, patient safety and outcomes," Poses said.
It's even more puzzling to imagine a methodology for comparing U.S. hospitals with those in other countries, which have their own systems, cultures and political systems.
"What sense does that make?" Poses said. "How would you make an international comparison?"