"The problem is there are a number of awards given out to hospitals. There is Health Grades and U.S. News, and LeapFrog [Group] and Consumer Reports and they don't always match with one another," says Charles Ornstein, senior reporter at ProPublica, the nonprofit news organization, and president of the board of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
"Oftentimes they strongly disagree with one another and there are a number of cases where they recognize hospitals that are in serious violation of federal and state regulations related to quality of care. It is a concern that there is such a proliferation of rankings that they have almost become hard to decipher."
Ornstein says the U.S. News rankings in particular present "a great marketing tool for hospitals that are recognized."
"It is a name consumers recognize. And hospitals are looking for independent validation of their quality. So, this is something which, even though they may criticize the methods and especially criticize it if their ratings go down, they definitely want to make the list of top hospitals in their area or in the country," he says.
Ornstein says he is troubled that none of the various "rating schemes" use state and federal inspection data in their rankings.