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IBM Watson: Top 100 Hospitals provide better care at lower cost, with higher margins

All types of hospitals made the list, from small community facilities to major teaching hospitals, delivering satisfaction and operational efficiency

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

IBM Watson Health has published its 100 Top Hospitals annual study identifying top-performing hospitals in the U.S., and found that the best performers achieved better risk-adjusted outcomes while maintaining both a lower average cost per patient and higher profit margin than peer group hospitals.

The U.S. spends almost twice as much on healthcare as other wealthy countries, said IBM Watson, but the country's population health outcomes are sorely lacking. The hospitals that made the list buck that trend, consistently delivering better care at a lower cost.

All types of hospitals made the list, from small community facilities to major teaching hospitals. All achieved the trifecta of quality care, high patient satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Dr. Kyu Rhee, vice president and chief health officer at IBM Watson Health, estimated that if the best practices used by the finalists were spread out over the entire health system, it could translate into 100,000 more lives saved, nearly 40,000 fewer complications, more than 150,000 fewer readmissions and about $8 billion in savings.


There were a few performance measurements in which the Top 100 hospitals significantly outperformed their peers.

They had much higher survival rates, with rates 24.9 percent higher than those of peer hospitals. Patients at the winning hospitals also experienced 18.7 percent fewer complications and 19.3 percent fewer healthcare-associated infections.

The winners had a median severity-adjusted length of stay that was one half-day shorter than their peers, and overall, winning hospitals delivered median emergency department wait times that were 17.3 minutes shorter.

Average inpatient costs per discharge were 11.9 percent lower (a difference of $830 per discharge) among winners, and they maintained a median operating profit margin that was 11.9 percentage points higher than non-winning hospitals.

Overall hospital experience, as measured by the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, was rated 3 percent higher for winning hospitals.

In addition to the 100 Top Hospitals, the IBM Watson Health study also recognizes the 100 Top Hospitals Everest Award winners. These are hospitals that earned the 100 Top Hospitals designation and also are among the 100 best for rate of improvement during a five-year period. This year, there are 15 Everest Award winners.

A full list of winners can be found here.


IBM Watson Health's Top 100 list is among a handful of hospital ranking programs meant to recognize quality. On the last day of February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services updated hospital performance data through star ratings on its Hospital Compare website.

Hospital Compare uses quality measures to compare more than 4,000 Medicare-certified hospitals, plus Veterans Health Administration and Military Health System hospitals. Consumers can enter their zipcode to find star rating comparisons of hospitals within their area.

Providers have told CMS the system is flawed, however, so the last overall star ratings update took place in December 2017, with CMS pledging to answer providers' concerns.

Twitter: @JELagasse

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