We're No. 1 (or at least No. something)

The rankings are out.

Forget the AP's Top 25 college football poll. The big money ranking is the 2013-14 best hospitals list from U.S. News & World Report.

With their new U.S. News numbers in hand, hospitals are clamoring to splash the good news in ads, banners and articles (of course some are trying to explain why they dropped a spot or two). 

Elisabeth Rosenthal has a great piece in The New York Times ("The Hype Over Hospital Rankings," July 27, 2013) that examines what the rankings mean to patients and the cost of health care.

“Nearly every hospital has a banner out front saying they’re a ‘top hospital’ for something in some rating system,” said Dr. Nicholas Osborne, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan. “Those ratings have become more important for hospital marketing than for actually helping patients find the best care.”

Every patient wants the best care from the best doctor at the best hospital. But what they really expect is the best care they can get from the best doctor available at the best hospital that is close to home. And they want it right now.

Indeed, with thousands of good hospitals across the nation, the best selling point for routine medical care may simply be convenience: some studies show that patients prefer nearby hospitals with worse results over ones with better outcomes farther away.

Health care is expensive. Dollars are hard to come by. Health care marketing should be educating patients and their families to help them become more active and engaged in their care. Because a more active and engaged patient will ultimately be a healthier patient — and that will drive down costs. 

Awards make hospital administrators and boards happy (and marketers, too, because they get a little more money to run ads). Great, compassionate care makes patients happy.

And convenience will win almost every time.