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July 31, 2009
We're publishing our annual ranking of America's Best Hospitals at a moment when America's entire health industry is under the microscope. President Obama has decided that now is the opportunity to change the way the country gets its healthcare. He has opened up a trunkful of arguments, most notably about cost, effectiveness, and fairness. The debate will be with us for months to come, if not longer.
Our hospital rankings have long provided some important benchmarks at the top end of the quality spectrum. We looked in depth at nearly 5,000 of the nation's hospitals and selected the top performers in key specialties, as well as those rare few that do many things with excellence. We have also continued the separate rankings of children's hospitals that we began two years ago.
Besides the numbers, we look at some of the people and technologies that are improving medical care. The surgical robot is just one example of what we're starting to see in regular use. Laser surgery, body scans, and indestructible replacement parts for aging bodies are all becoming common. Many of the improvements have to do with communication, long a shortcoming in medical institutions. Patient data can be sent where they are needed more quickly. Doctors and equipment can be tracked in hospital hallways. Telemedicine, which allows specialists to diagnose patients far away, is gaining critical mass. Big investments by the best hospitals are cutting error rates and improving patient outcomes.