UCH makes the honor roll in U.S. News ‘Best Hospitals’ rankings

First hospital in Colorado to join the list of top 20 hospitals nationally
Aug. 4, 2016

For the fifth consecutive year, U.S. News & World Report has named University of Colorado Hospital as the number-one hospital in the state. But that distinction was not the top headline for UCH and UCHealth after the publication released its “Best Hospitals” report Aug. 2.

The bigger news: UCH is the first Colorado hospital to join the Best Hospitals national “Honor Roll,” reserved for 20 hospitals that excel in a large number of specialties. The hospital was number 20 on the list, earning it the elite status.

“We are honored by this recognition not only because we are one of the nation’s top hospitals, but because this shows our dedication to providing the very best and most innovative patient care,” UCHealth President and CEO Elizabeth Concordia said in a statement. “Patients travel here from across the nation because they recognize that UCHealth can provide advanced treatments and superior outcomes for our patients.”

“Our partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine is extremely important to UCHealth and our patients,” added UCH President and CEO Will Cook. “The physicians on this campus are not only known across the nation, they are known internationally for developing the medical treatments of tomorrow. Being named an Honor Roll hospital is a tribute to CU School of Medicine faculty as well as the dedicated nurses and staff at University of Colorado Hospital.”

The rankings success for UCHealth didn’t end there. Medical Center of the Rockies ranked third in the state, while Poudre Valley Hospital ranked fifth and Memorial Hospital sixth among the nearly 100 Colorado hospitals listed in the U.S. News report. The Gastroenterology and GI Surgery program at MCR earned “high performing” recognition.

“The fact that all UCHealth hospitals are recognized is also a testament to UCHealth and how our clinical integration and partnership among our hospitals and ambulatory locations is elevating the care we provide our patients,” Concordia added in an all-staff email.

The report ranks 16 specialty programs in U.S. hospitals. For 12 of the 16, rankings are determined by an analysis of hospitals’ performance in four areas: structure, process, outcomes, and patient safety (see box). For the remaining four (ophthalmology, psychiatry, rehabilitation, and rheumatology), the rankings are based on reputation, as determined by a physician survey.

By the numbers

UCH Exterior
For 22 consecutive years, University of Colorado Hospital has had at least one specialty ranked in the top 50 in the U.S. News “Best Hospitals” report. This year, it cracked the publication’s “Honor Roll” of the top 20 hospitals in the country.

A key reason for the accomplishment was a change in the ranking methodology U.S. News instituted this year. UCH ranked among the top 50 hospitals in the country in 10 specialties (see box). That was actually one fewer than in 2015, but this year hospitals received points on a sliding scale for every specialty they placed in the top 50. In previous years, only hospitals with at least six specialties ranking in the top 10 or top 20 received points toward Honor Roll consideration. The new system thus rewards hospitals like UCH with many specialties among the top 50.

Ben Harder, chief of health analysis at U.S. News, noted that only about 3 percent of the roughly 4,700 hospitals the publication evaluates are nationally ranked in a single specialty. “Even fewer excelled across numerous areas of care, as each of these Honor Roll hospitals did,” Harder said.
For 22 consecutive years, University of Colorado Hospital has had at least one specialty ranked in the top 50 in the U.S. News “Best Hospitals” report. This year, it cracked the publication’s “Honor Roll” of the top 20 hospitals in the country.

Big ups

This was the 22nd consecutive year that UCH has had at least one specialty among the top 50. As it has for many years, the Pulmonology program led the way, ranking second in the country. Two other programs rose significantly in the rankings. Diabetes and Endocrinology placed 14th, up from 30th in 2015, while GI Surgery and Gastroenterology ranked 22nd, up from 42nd the year before.

“We’re quite excited to see that change,” said Bryan Haugen, MD, head of the Division of Endocrinology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Haugen said the division has been working hard to increase the exposure of its multidisciplinary pituitary, diabetes, thyroid tumor, lipid and metabolic bone programs.

“With these programs we get much more regional and national attention. They give great clinical care and are conduits for research,” Haugen said. “I think that raises our stature.” He also pointed to efforts by both staff and providers to improve patient access and the timeliness of care.

Greg Stiegmann, MD, chief of CU’s Division of GI, Tumor and Endocrine Surgery, also pointed to multidisciplinary teamwork as essential to the rise of GI Surgery and Gastroenterology in the rankings. He noted that the pancreatic and biliary, esophageal and gastric, liver and neuroendocrine, colorectal, and bariatric surgery teams have all developed successful multidisciplinary clinics in the past several years.

These GI surgeons and their teams have “grown their reputations and surgical volumes substantially while maintaining the highest quality and patient satisfaction ratings,” Stiegmann said. “Equally important are our strong UCH outpatient clinic, OR and inpatient teams. From first encounter to discharge, everyone that touches a patient plays an important role,” he said.

University of Colorado Hospital Rounding
Multidisciplinary care, a strength at UCH, helped contribute to top 50 rankings for many specialties.

The jump in the rankings was gratifying for Hugo Rosen, MD, head of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology. “I’ve known for a while that we have the best people in the world in our division, and I’m happy that we’re beginning to get national recognition,” he said, noting that the liver transplant program has long been regarded as among the best in the country.

Rosen noted that the Gastroenterology program has added many home-grown faculty and recruited top specialists from other institutions over the past several years. He credited strong support from his division and department as well as from John C. Reilly, MD, dean of the CU School of Medicine, and hospital leadership for the program’s steady clinical growth.

“You don’t jump 20 places in the rankings unless you have an aligned vision,” Rosen said. “It’s reflective of the upward trajectory of the campus as a whole.”

Cook said he expects the U.S. News honors to help that trend continue. “This recognition helps communicate to patients in our state that they don’t need to travel to the East Coast or West Coast for care. They have access to some of the nation’s very best and most advanced treatments right here, close to home,” he said.
Multidisciplinary care, a strength at UCH, helped contribute to top 50 rankings for many specialties.
“Each and every day, we have the opportunity to improve the quality and safety of the care we provide, and to deliver the best possible patient experience,” Cook added. “While we’re excited and proud of this achievement, we must never slow our drive to continually improve.”

The Top 10

In 2016, 10 UCH specialties were among the top 50 nationally in the U.S. News and World Report list of “Best Hospitals” report:

  • Pulmonology (2nd)
  • Diabetes and Endocrinology (14th)
  • Nephrology (15th)
  • Cancer (22nd)
  • Gastroenterology and GI Surgery (22nd)
  • Gynecology (32nd)
  • Geriatrics (36th)
  • Orthopedics (42nd)
  • Cardiology and Heart Surgery (42nd)
  • Neurology and Neurosurgery (43rd)

Rheumatology and Urology were listed as “high performers.”


The Methodology

The Best Hospitals rankings are based on four factors in 12 specialty categories:

  • Outcomes (37.5 percent)
  • Structure (30 percent)
  • Process (27.5 percent)
  • Patient safety (5 percent)

According to the methodology documentation provided by U.S. News, “outcomes” include factors such as risk-adjusted mortality data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“Structure” includes hospital volume, technology, nurse staffing, trauma care, patient services, and other resources that “define the tools, human and otherwise, available at hospitals for treating patients,” according to the methodology report. The data come primarily from the American Hospital Association with additional input from other organizations, including the National Cancer Institute and the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

“Process” refers to a hospital’s reputed ability to develop a system that consistently delivers safe, high-quality care, as measured by surveys of board-certified physicians. The score also includes data on preventable death and harm.

The “patient safety” ranking is derived from indicators included in the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Patient Safety Index.

About the author

Tyler Smith has been a health care writer, with a focus on hospitals, since 1996. He served as a writer and editor for the Marketing and Communications team at University of Colorado Hospital and UCHealth from 2007 to 2017. More recently, he has reported for and contributed stories to the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the Colorado School of Public Health and the Colorado Bioscience Association.