In what has become a summer ritual, the Johns Hopkins Hospital has been rated the nation's best for the sixth consecutive year in U.S. News & World Report's annual survey of hospitals.
The magazine, which employs a private research firm to do the rankings, started publishing its "America's Best Hospitals" issue seven years ago. That year, Hopkins ranked second to the Mayo Clinic, but settled into the top position in 1991.
In achieving the top honors again, it outranked such esteemed medical institutions as the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital, UCLA and Duke -- which ranked second through fifth, respectively.
"It reflects the kind of respect the medical profession throughout the world and the public has for this institution," said Dr. James A. Block, Hopkins hospital president.
"It's interesting that six years in a row this has happened, with U.S. News somewhat altering its methodology," he said. "At the same time, a number of other organizations have reached this conclusion. I think it's fair to say that there is something to this."
The rankings, which will appear in Monday's issue, are based on evaluation of 1,961 hospitals nationwide. Besides comparing hospitals on overall quality, the research firm rated them on the basis of 16 specialties.
All told, 126 medical centers gained spots on one or more lists.
Hopkins made the "best hospitals" list in all specialties. It received the top ranking in three fields: ophthalmology, gynecology and urology. It finished second in AIDS, rheumatology (joint, muscle and connective tissue diseases), gastroenterology (digestive disorders) and otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat problems).
Two other local hospitals received high rankings in specialties.
The University of Maryland Medical Center ranked 29th in orthopedics, 32nd in AIDS, 37th in gastroenterology, 41st in neurology and 42nd in urology. The Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital was rated eighth in psychiatry.
Rankings were determined by the National Opinion Research Center, a social-science research firm at the University of Chicago. They were based on a mathematical formula, which factored national reputation with objective measures such as nurse-to-bed ratios and death rates.
The firm also considered technological sophistication -- whether a hospital, for instance, had a cardiac intensive care unit or used magnetic resonance imaging machines.
To gauge reputation, the firm asked 2,400 physicians across the country to name the five leading hospitals in their respective specialties without considering cost or location. Reputation counted for one-third of a hospital's score.
Over the years, Hopkins has touted its top ranking in broadcast and print advertisements that are designed to help draw patients in an increasingly cut-throat marketplace. Inside the hospital, magazine covers are displayed widely in waiting rooms and corridors.
"All of us are very pleased," said Dr. Morton F. Goldberg, director of the Wilmer Eye Institute. "It's a nice external validation for a group of extremely talented and hard-working people."
The ophthalmological center has an international clientele and draws half its patients from outside metropolitan Baltimore.
Dr. John Bartlett, head of the hospital's AIDS service, said he was proud to see the program listed in the company of others that are nationally prominent.
The best hospitals, he said, are part of academic medical centers struggling to maintain quality at a time when health plans are looking for the cheapest providers.
"All the hospitals are asking how they can maintain that quality in an era of managed care," he said.
The nation's top medical centers, according to U.S. News & World Report's 1996 survey:
* 1. Johns Hopkins Hospital,
* 2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester,
( 3. Massachusetts General
' 4. UCLA Medical Center,
* 5. Duke University Medical
Center, Durham, N.C.
+ 7. University of California
San Francisco Medical
& 8. Brigham and Women's
, 9. University of Texas, M.D.
Anderson Cancer Center,
' 10. (tie) Barnes-Jewish
Hospital, St. Louis;
Cancer Center, New York.
, 12. University of Washington
Medical Center, Seattle.
' 13. New York University
* 14. University of Michigan
Medical Center, Ann
' 15. Stanford University
Hospital, Stanford, Calif.
Pub Date: 8/02/96