University of Pennsylvania Health System

Understanding Hospital Quality Rating Systems

The quality of patient care in a hospital is measured differently by various agencies.  These agencies use different definitions, criteria, and metrics and have their own unique methods to compare data. Most of these agencies use information already gathered from sources such as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and Joint Commission (TJC) to arrive at their own ratings. Therefore comparisons between these agencies can be confusing and data can be misinterpreted. Penn Medicine’s strategic priorities are aligned with national benchmarks that are defined by governing bodies such as CMS and TJC.  CMS/TJC metrics are created by the National Quality Forum.

In the early 2000’s, CMS and the Joint Commission joined forces to develop a national standard for quality care based on a set of processes, or core measures, for hospitals. They established standardized measures of quality in selected patient populations including acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), community acquired pneumonia, congestive heart failure, pregnancy and surgical procedures. Research has shown that following certain steps, such as giving antibiotics to patients before and after surgery, improves patient outcomes. Most of these rating agencies track hospitals’ adherence to these processes, which is made available to you, the consumer.

Organizations That Rate Hospitals

The Joint Commission

The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits nearly 16,000 health care organizations and programs in the United States. Joint Commission accreditation is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization's commitment to meeting certain performance standards. To earn and maintain accreditation, an organization must undergo an on-site survey by a TJC survey team at least every three years. Penn Medicine’s TJC information is available at

Penn Medicine is proud that two of its hospitals received Primary Stroke certification from The Joint Commission for efforts to achieve long-term success in improving outcomes for stroke patients.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)/Hospital Compare

Hospital Compare was created through the efforts of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in collaboration with organizations representing consumers, hospitals, doctors, employers, accrediting organizations, and other Federal agencies. Its purpose is to provide quality of care information for over 4,000+ Medicare-certified hospitals to help you decide on a health care provider and to encourage hospitals to improve their outcomes.

To see how Penn Medicine is doing, visit

Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems (HCAHPS)

Hospital Consumer Assessment of Health Providers and Systems, (HCAHPS) is a government survey for measuring patient satisfaction at hospitals across the country. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) sponsor the survey. Both agencies are part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The categories focus on communication with doctors and nurses, responsiveness of hospital staff, pain management, cleanliness and quietness of the hospital environment and instructions about medications and discharge.

To view Penn Medicine’s data, visit

U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report is a reporting magazine that in recent years has become particularly known for its ranking system and annual reports on American colleges, graduate schools and hospitals. U.S. News & World Report evaluates hospitals, excluding military and veterans hospitals, based upon 16 specialties which include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes and endocrinology
  • Ear nose and throat
  • Gastroenterology
  • Geriatrics
  • Gynecology
  • Heart and heart surgery
  • Kidney disorders
  • Neurology and neurosurgery
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Psychiatry
  • Pulmonology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Rheumatology
  • Urology

For a hospital to be considered one of the top overall, they must score at or near the top (at least two standard deviations above the mean) in a minimum of six specialties.

The 2012 hospital rankings involved a change in methodology to include more clinical data from health care institutions. In the latest 2012-2013 rankings, 4,793 hospitals were considered of which only 148 were ranked in any one of 16 specialties.

Penn Medicine is continuously ranked high on the U.S. World News and World Report Honor Roll, a prestigious category for best hospitals in the nation and region based on their specialties.

To review the Honor Roll, visit