WASHINGTON -- Eight Arizona hospitals were ranked in the top 5 percent in the nation by a national healthcare rating agency, giving Arizona the 13th-best rate of high-achieving hospitals among states.
Banner Boswell Medical Center, Banner Desert Medical Center, Banner Estrella Medical Center, Chandler Regional Medical Center, John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Mercy Gilbert Medical Center and Carondolet St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson made the grade.
The 2013 Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence ranks hospitals on mortality and medical complication rates in up to 27 procedures, including heart failure, various surgeries, joint replacement and critical care.
The report recognizes the top 5 percent of hospitals in the country each year, with 262 hospitals picked this year out of more than 5,000 eligible nationwide.
Arizona had 31 hospitals eligible, meaning more than 25 percent earned the top ranking.
That was down from the state's performance last year, when 12 of 30 Arizona hospitals made the grade. But the report's sponsors said the change might not indicate that the hospitals not on the list this year got worse -- only that others got better in the intervening year.
For those hospitals listed in the report, however, the ranking is a welcome recognition of their hard work.
Making the list gives a "significant moral boost" to the staff, said Dr. Amy Beiter, president and CEO of the hospital.
"I think it speaks to the commitment and all the hard work we've put into this," Beiter said. "For them (staff) it reinforces what they already know about their hospital."
Beiter said a collaborative approach to care from its doctors, nurses and other staff has allowed the hospital to maintain high quality.
Pete Wertheim, spokesman for the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, said the Healthgrades study is a good tool for patients to use, but he cautioned that it is not the only one.
Wertheim said many hospital report cards are released every year. Each measures a different aspect of the hospital, with other rankings looking at readmissions, safety procedures or patient satisfaction.
"Right now there's not a single report card that is considered to be the Cadillac or the right answer for people," Wertheim said.
Instead of judging hospitals based on one report, he suggested people take several factors into account. The most important is that patients feel comfortable with the facility and doctors.
"We support the use of these tools to help consumers with that, because it's good for them to have as much information as possible," Wertheim said. "If anything there's too much out there."
The four hospitals that did not make the list this year, after being in the 2012 report, were Scottsdale Healthcare-Shea Medical Center, Banner Del E. Webb Medical Center, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center and Mountain Vista Medical Center.
Mountain Vista, Shea and Banner Del E. Webb each earned a three-star rating (performing as expected) in five categories in which they earned five-star ratings (better than expected) last year. Categories included treatment of gastrointestinal bleeds, coronary interventional procedures and treatment of heart attacks.
All four hospitals also got rated lower in treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Because the report judges hospitals against each other, the overall Distinguished Hospitals rating and categorical ratings are relative, said Lisa Bongiovanni, a Healthgrades spokeswoman.
Bongiovanni said that means a hospital could be performing as well as last year, but other hospitals just got better.
"By no means are they underperforming, it's just that it's based on the other hospitals evaluated too," Bongiovanni said.
Dr. Archelle Georgiou, clinical adviser for Healthgrades, said using unbiased, data-driven ratings is important so patients can find a good hospital. In the end, the goal of the report is to help people choose what hospital to visit.
"Just because it's down the street from you doesn't mean it's the best hospital in town," Georgiou said. "It really is important to check objective measures of performance before you actually get care."