The world’s hospitals have been the front line in medicine’s constantly evolving war against COVID-19 for two years now. According to the experts who helped guide the results of our annual ranking of the World’s Best Hospitals, that has meant learning to adapt to new and existing challenges quickly and improvising on the fly.
For instance, according to Dr. Gary S. Kaplan, chairman and CEO of Seattle’s Virginia Mason Health System, “The pandemic has exacerbated a worldwide healthcare staffing shortage, especially in nursing.”
David Bates, chief of general internal medicine and primary care at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (No. 17 on Newsweek’s Best Hospitals Global Leaders list) says, “We had to very rapidly convert beds to ICU beds, and close large sections of the hospital, then come up with staff to cover those beds. There were also great challenges with managing our supply chain for things like ventilators and personal protective equipment.”
Dr. Christoph Meier, Director of the Department of Internal Medicine at University Hospital Zurich (No. 15 on our Global Leaders list) says, “Many lessons could be learned from COVID, such as recognizing the efficacy of virtual meetings, valuing the importance of hospital hygiene and emphasizing the importance of generalists over siloed specialization. The biggest challenge was the joint setting of individual priorities for a common goal.”
Many medical institutions struggled with these and other challenges over the course of the pandemic but what has set the world’s leading hospitals apart is their continued ability to deliver the highest-quality patient care and conduct critical medical research even as they focused on battling COVID. Indeed, as the fourth annual ranking of the World’s Best Hospitals by Newsweek and Statista shows, consistency in excellence is the hallmark of these institutions, with familiar names dominating the list and top spots.
The hospitals that have fared best during the pandemic are those that have learned to work faster by communicating better and breaking down internal silos, according to Dr. Gregory Katz, professor of Innovation & Value in Health at the University of Paris School of Medicine: “A critical facilitator of velocity is broad participation from hospital teams. If there is one thing we take away from our fight against COVID-19, it’s the value of preparation. For hospital leaders, it’s all about choice, not chance.”
Dr. Jens Deerberg-Wittram, CEO and president of Romed Kliniken, a German nonprofit health system, says much of that preparation comes down to being ready to pay for the nuts-and-bolts necessary to take of very sick people. “We learned over the pandemic,” he says, “that those hospitals truly make a difference in a global crisis who are running expensive and resource-intense infrastructure like emergency departments, ICUs, ECMO [extracorporeal membrane oxygen machines] et cetera.”
How do the leading hospitals maintain their top status in the midst of a global pandemic that has turned the medical world upside down? The ability and drive to continually innovate is key—and top talent is at the heart of that. As Bates says, “Premier hospitals remain strong largely by attracting the best people, those who are focused on developing new approaches to care and making care better.”
Kaplan adds, “Top hospitals maintain their excellence by having clear and embraced missions and aspirational visions leading to constancy of purpose that is lived daily by all staff. This must be coupled with leadership constancy and consistency that creates alignment from the boardroom to the front line of care.”
According to Deerberg-Wittram, “A certain intellectual mindset, an academic culture, a strong focus on patient outcomes and an inspiring environment for young talents are the ingredients for a premier hospital that lasts over decades.”
This year’s rankings represent an expanded universe, with three new countries on the list—Colombia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates—bringing the total to over 2,200 hospitals in 27 countries. And the results show a remarkable cross-section of excellence across the world: Twenty one countries are represented in the global top 150. The U.S. leads with 33 hospitals, followed by Germany with 14; Italy and France with 10 each; and South Korea with eight. Overall, there were 13 new hospitals in this year’s top 100. Among the biggest movers from last year’s rankings were No. 14 Universitätsspital Basel, up from 35 last year; No. 28 Northwestern Memorial Hospital (58 in 2021); No. 43 Seoul’s Samsung Medical Center (73) and No. 59 New York’s NYU Langone Hospitals (86).
The goal of this study is to provide the best data-based comparison of hospital reputation and performance across countries. We hope this will be useful not only to patients and families seeking the best care for themselves and loved ones, but also to hospitals as they benchmark themselves against their peers during a period of unprecedented change.