Hospitals Pay U.S. News to Promote Their Rankings

Derick Alison
Derick Alison
8 Min Read

Amid pushback regarding several of the U.S. News & World Report rankings, including those for medical schools and hospitals, the question of payment for use of the company’s logo has resurfaced.

A recent report from the New York Times entitled “U.S. News Makes Money From Some of Its Biggest Critics: Colleges,” detailed how the company sells “badges” to colleges, “so they can promote their rankings.”

Exactly how many hospitals continue to use the U.S. News logo on their websites and other marketing materials — and how much they pay to do so — remains largely unclear.

Of more than 20 hospitals contacted by MedPage Today — including those comprising this year’s U.S. News Honor Roll — few provided any information regarding whether they currently pay to use the the company’s logo. None of the hospitals provided any information regarding the price to do so; neither did U.S. News.

“We do purchase the badge from U.S. News because we’ve learned from consumers that it is effective in advertising,” a spokesperson for Houston Methodist told MedPage Today in an email. “[I]n a competitive city like Houston, it helps validate our credentials as being at the top in quality and patient care.”

A spokesperson for Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles also confirmed in an email that it purchased a license to use the U.S. News badge this year.

Christine Clay, senior director of system marketing for Scripps Health in San Diego, told MedPage Today in an email, “There was a time when we did purchase the license to use the badge for U.S. News & World Report; however, we no longer do that.”

Clay further noted that Scripps does not purchase the license for badges from other ranking entities either. “For most of the rankings, we can promote them; however, are not able to use the badge internally or externally without the license,” she said.

“Over time, we’ve found that we can successfully convey the messages about our rankings without adding in the visual identity/badge,” Clay added.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, also does not purchase or use the U.S. News badge, a spokesperson confirmed in an email.

And a spokesperson for Cleveland Clinic emailed the following response: “Many rating and ranking organizations require payment to use a rating/ranking badge, but purchase is not required to be included in the listing. We make that decision on a case-by-case basis determined by several factors.”

The issue has made it onto the radar of public officials in at least one place.

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, JD, said in June that he had sent a letter to U.S. News seeking information on the rankings. The letter urged the outlet to “publicly disclose the payments it receives from the hospitals it endorses, as required by federal regulations,” Chiu said in a statement.

U.S. News receives revenues from hospitals through licensing fees to use its ‘best hospitals’ badge, subscriptions to access the granular data underpinning the rankings, and advertising on U.S. News‘s website and in the Best Hospitals Guidebook,” Chiu added in part. “This funding is significant, with one hospital in Kansas acknowledging that it paid U.S. News $42,000 to use the ‘best hospitals’ badge for one year.”

Some 10 years ago, FOX 4 in Kansas City, Missouri, had reported that Children’s Mercy paid $42,000 for 1 year’s use of the U.S. News logo, citing a hospital spokesperson.

In response to Chiu’s letter, a spokesperson for U.S. News told MedPage Today in an emailed statement that it “categorically disagrees with the assumptions and conclusions in the City Attorney’s letter.”

Regarding MedPage Today’s current inquiry on hospital payment for use of the company’s logo, a spokesperson for U.S. News declined to comment on how many hospitals currently pay to use the logo, whether any hospitals that no longer submit data to or participate in the rankings continue to pay to use the logo, and how much it costs to use the logo.

U.S. News has also faced criticism from hospitals over its ranking methods.

St. Luke’s University Health Network announced in May 2023 that its system of hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey would no longer respond to requests for data from U.S. News.

Then in June, the University of Pennsylvania Health System, part of Penn Medicine, announced that it would no longer actively participate in the rankings.

“While Penn Medicine has always ranked well, and this year’s numbers are better than ever, we remain concerned that the [underlying] methodology used to determine the yearly rankings does not account for the full and diverse settings where healthcare is delivered,” Kevin Mahoney, MBA, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, said in a statement at the time.

“The methodology excludes most care provided in outpatient settings, care at home, or by telemedicine, for example, and it does not place value on innovation, life-saving research, or educating and training our nation’s future healthcare professionals, which are foundational to Penn Medicine’s mission,” Mahoney added.

In response to such concerns, U.S. News publicly announced significant changes to its hospital rankings themselves.

“Specifically, there will be no ordinal ranking for hospitals selected for this year’s Honor Roll when that list is ultimately published,” the company stated in July, ahead of releasing its latest list. “U.S. News will continue to publish ordinal rankings for 15 specialties and in each region where we have previously published rankings.”

Other modifications include the introduction of outpatient outcomes in certain specialty and surgical ratings, the expanded inclusion of other outpatient data, an increased weight on objective quality measures, and a reduced weight on expert opinion.

Cheryl Clark contributed reporting to this story.

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    Jennifer Henderson joined MedPage Today as an enterprise and investigative writer in Jan. 2021. She has covered the healthcare industry in NYC, life sciences and the business of law, among other areas.

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