Only 2% of the nation’s hospitals earned recognition from the Lown Institute. Some were singled out for their success even with a high concentration of COVID-19 patients.
Dozens of hospitals have earned high marks in a ranking that examines healthcare systems for their social responsibility.
The Lown Institute, a non-partisan think tank, named the 66 “most socially responsible hospitals” in the country. The organization examined hospitals for their success in health equity, value and patient outcomes. Other metrics examined include racial inclusivity and avoiding overuse or unnecessary procedures and services.
Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute, touted the unique nature of this study of hospitals. The hospital launched the analysis in 2020.
“This kind of ranking didn’t exist so we had to do it,” Saini said in an online event Tuesday.
The institute is known for casting a critical look at how healthcare systems use their resources, including their compensation of top executives compared to other employees.
In addition, the Lown Institute also recognized 15 hospitals for their work in their communities even as they faced a high concentration of patients with COVID-19.
Expectations are high
At a time when health equity has gained increasing attention in the healthcare industry, Saini said the list has a value to spotlight hospitals that are serving their communities. He said he hopes the rankings could lead to change and inspire other hospitals to improve.
The Lown Institute examined 3,606 hospitals in its analysis, and only 66 hospitals - less than 2% - earned “A’s” in every category.
“Hospitals do much more than provide medical care,” Saini said. They invest in their communities and their workers, and some are engaging in broader efforts to improve the health of their communities to help keep people out of the hospital.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and growing attention to the disparities in healthcare outcomes among disadvantaged groups, hospitals are facing growing pressure to do more for their communities.
“This is a moment when expectations for hospitals are high,” Saini said.
A few common themes emerged in the study.
“In general, we found that nonprofit hospitals tend to do better and for-profit hospitals don’t do as well in some metrics, such as overuse,” Saini said. Nine of the top 10 hospitals in social responsibility were non-profit hospitals.
In addition, healthcare systems with a religious affiliation, tend to do a little better in terms of social responsibility, he said.
Responsibility and humility
Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital, based in Willits, California, earned the top spot on the list of socially responsible hospitals.
Jordan Howe, the hospital’s president, said the organization knows its responsibility isn’t just to keep the doors open but to improve the health of the surrounding communities. He also said if the hospital remains relevant to its communities today, it’ll be around tomorrow.
“It’s knowing your sacred or social responsibility to the communities around you,” Howe said during the Lown Institute’s online event.
Boston Medical Center ranked fourth on the list of responsible hospitals, and this is the hospital’s third year in the top 20. Kate Walsh, president and CEO of Boston Medical Center, attributed the hospital’s success in serving its community to “a spirit of inquiry, restlessness and humility.”
Walsh described Boston Medical Center’s efforts to improve health equity, and she said a starting point involved looking at what was happening within the organization. Looking through a lens of health equity, the system found areas where the medical center was doing well and where improvement was needed.
The COVID-19 pandemic helped drive the medical center to say, “What is it we’re doing now that we need to do differently?”
Boston Medical Center examined disparities in outcomes among patients by race and ethnicity in 100 domains. When the medical center was distributing COVID-19 vaccines, it “geo-targeted” neighborhoods to be sure some groups weren’t being left behind.
Walsh added another benefit to the medical center’s increased focus on health equity. She said the effort has helped energy a healthcare workforce that has been burned out and exhausted due to the pandemic.
The Lown Institute examined Medicare claims, federal hospital cost reports, data from the Internal Revenue Service in compiling its rankings.
The top 10 in social responsibility
Top 5 hospitals with a high COVID-19 burden
See the full list of the Lown Institute’s most socially responsible hospitals.