- Ranked hospitals have to pay U.S. News in order to use the U.S. News 'Best Hospitals' branding in their advertising. The annual list covers over nearly 5,000 U.S. medical centers across 16 medical specialties from cancer to urology.
- Hospitals do not pay to be ranked, according to University of Kansas Hospital spokesperson Jill Chadwick (K.U. was ranked in the top 50 in a dozen specialties this year). "All of that is earned, and they are numbers we’re really quite proud of," Chadwick said.
- According to Chadwick, the contractual agreement with U.S. News prevents the hospital from divulging how much it spends for the rights to use the branding. U.S. News told the local Fox news channel in Kansas City that it does not reveal information about logo licensing. However, a spokesperson for Children's Mercy said it is not prohibited from disclosing the fee, and said that the hospital spends $42,000 per year for the licensing rights.
The U.S. News logo is being used to attract patients to seek care at ranked facilities; ethically, should its value be disclosed to patients? Dr. Suzanne Discenza, professor of healthcare administration at Park University, says absolutely.
"I think if you really wanted to be completely transparent, you would say how much [use of the branding costs]," Discenza says.
Chadwick disagrees: "I think it's absolutely appropriate for businesses to expect if you're going to use their logo that there are restrictions put with that use of the logo."
The debate highlights two key questions hospitals face. Firstly, as providers face increasing pressure for price transparency, what hospitals can reasonably expect to keep to themselves is pushed into smaller and smaller compartments. Should marketing costs be treated the same as price-of-care data?
Secondly, how much value do these rankings add to a hospital, exactly? There is a certain amount of dubiousness surrounding whether they accurately reflect quality of care. Healthcare Dive has previously reported on the huge amounts of comparative public data on hospitals now available, all of which is compiled according to different methodologies. Parents tell their children to take U.S. News rankings of colleges and universities with a big grain of salt—some elite colleges publicly question their value—so should consumers also look upon their hospital rankings (and hospitals' heavy use of them for marketing purposes) with careful deliberation?