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Hopkins remains 3rd in latest U.S. News ranking of top hospitals

Johns Hopkins Hospital tied with UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles as the nation's third-best hospitals in the latest ranking from U.S. News and World Report, a widely watched annual assessment that for years ranked Hopkins No. 1.

The ranking released Tuesday took on a bit more drama in 2012, when the magazine tweaked its methodology to place more emphasis on patient safety and less on reputation, ending Hopkins' 21-year streak at No. 1. Since then, Hopkins has vied with Massachusetts General and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for position in the top three. The Boston hospital took top honors this year.

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"We had a significant run for so many years and then fell off the wagon," Ronald R. Peterson, president of the Hopkins hospital and health system, said with a chuckle.

On a serious note, Peterson said the rankings, aimed to aid patients with life-threatening or rare conditions, were based on data from nearly 4,800 hospitals, "so we're still very pleased to be close to the top."

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Hopkins ranked nationally in 15 specialties, and made the top three in several. It was ranked the best hospital in the state, followed by University of Maryland Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center. All are in Baltimore.

Peterson said such assessments can be confusing for patients, as many different rankings have sprung up in recent years. The federal government has weighed in with its Hospital Compare site.

An analysis of national ratings systems conducted by researchers from Hopkins and other universities this year found that many conflict with each other because they consider different criteria. No hospital ranked as a high performer in each of four rating systems analyzed, and the researchers recommended that patients look at the methodology of rankings to determine their value.

This is U.S. News' 26th such report, making it perhaps the oldest, and certainly the best known. The magazine measures patient volume, risk-adjusted survival rates and adequacy of nurse staffing, among other indicators. It surveys physicians as well.

"Patients deserve high-quality information on hospitals," Ben Harder, chief of health analysis at U.S. News, said in a statement. "We strive to provide them with the most comprehensive data available so they can make more informed decisions together with their doctor about where to undergo treatment."

The University of Maryland Medical Center ranked nationally in two specialties: cancer and nephrology, or kidney treatment. It was considered high-performing in diabetes, urology, pulmonology and hip replacement.

"The University of Maryland Medical Center is honored to be named among the 'Best Hospitals' in the state and region," spokeswoman Karen Lancaster said. "The citizens of Maryland and Baltimore are truly fortunate to have such highly regarded academic medical centers as UMMC and Johns Hopkins to serve their complex, acute health care needs through the practice of discovery-based medicine."

U.S. News said Mercy was high-performing in geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, neurology, orthopedics and hip and knee replacement.

Dr. Scott Spier, the hospital's senior vice president of medical affairs, said he was particularly gratified that the hospital ranked so highly in Maryland despite having no academic affiliation and being one of the state's few independent hospitals.

He also said there are many strong hospitals in the area, which gives patients options.

"We are a standalone institution and we're cognizant from the CFO to every clinical and non-clinical worker in the facility that we need to do things well if patients are going to come and see us," he said.

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Mercy Medical Center: High performing in: geriatrics, gynecology, nephrology, neurology, orthopedics and hip and knee replacement.

Top 10 hospitals in Maryland

Johns Hopkins Hospital: Nationally ranked in cancer; cardiology; diabetes; gastroenterology; geriatrics; gynecology; nephrology; neurology; orthopedics; ear, nose and throat; pulmonology; urology; ophthalmology; psychology; and rheumatology.

University of Maryland Medical Center: Nationally ranked in cancer and nephrology. High performing in diabetes, urology, pulmonology and hip replacement.

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital: High performing in nephrology, orthopedics, heart bypass and knee replacement.

University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center: High performing in hip and knee replacement and heart failure.

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital: High performing in gastroenterology, nephrology and knee replacement.

University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus: High performing in nephrology and pulmonology.

Greater Baltimore Medical Center: High performing in heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

Holy Cross Hospital (tie): High performing in neurology and heart failure.

Sinai Hospital (tie): High performing in hip and knee replacement.

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