Rx in the City 2012
Controversy online

Was Houston truly snubbed in hospital rankings? The benefits of fragmented health care

Was Houston truly snubbed in hospital rankings? The benefits of fragmented health care

Texas Medical Center, downtown, Houston, skyline
The Texas Medical Center in Houston is bigger than downtown Dallas.  Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau

The U.S. News & World Report released its 23rd annual Best Hospitals rankings earlier this week, and though many Houston hospitals ranked highly in respective specialties, the 2012-2013 Honor Roll list was published with nary a nod to the health care hub that is Texas Medical Center

Houstonians sounded off in the comment section of one article at this apparent snub, irate that Houston — which houses the largest and most comprehensive campus for research, science and patient care in the world — wasn't mentioned. 

"This year, only 148 of the 4,793 hospitals evaluated met such criteria and performed well enough to rank in even one specialty," explained Avery Camarow, the heath rankings editor for U.S. News and World Report, in an article outlining the ranking process. "And of the 148, just 17 qualified for a spot on the Honor Roll by ranking at or near the top in six or more specialties."

When one looks at the hospitals topping the Honor Roll list, it's simple to see why Houston's medical mecca — fractured into 13 hospitals and two specialty institutions, plus schools and other health related practices, comprising a total of 47 medicine-related institutions, each focusing on specific areas of research and treatment — wasn't mentioned. 

Massachusetts General Hospital, which unseated Johns Hopkins Hospital as No. 1 in the 2012-2013 Honor Roll, ranked higher than twelfth in each of the 16 specialties.

At No. 2, Johns Hopkins ranked in the top five nationally in 15 of 16 specialties, falling in at No. 17 in the rehabilitation sector. The Mayo Clinic, the No. 3 hospital on the honor roll, also ranked nationally in each of the 16 specialties, with only one area (a No. 14 ranking in nephrology) dropping lower than No. 7 nation-wide. 

Meanwhile, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which ranked No. 1 among hospitals for cancer treatment, was ranked nationally in just three other specialties (No. 5 in ear, nose and throat, No. 6 in gynecology and No. 23 in urology), and performed highly in four others. 

That's nothing to sneeze at, but sometimes one has to sacrifice a broad treatment spectrum in order to be the best at one.