Our ratings tables will be more valuable to you if you know how the data were gathered and how they should be interpreted.

Our ratings tables include all non-federal emergency departments of area acute-care hospitals that are open 24/7. It is possible that hospitals listed on our ratings table changed ownership or locations during the time data were collected, and these changes could have affected hospitals’ performance. Even absent ownership changes, it is likely that hospitals have changed their level of performance since the data-collection period. Performance changes are probably more likely if there have been changes in ownership or locations.

Opinion Surveys

We regularly survey area CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers for their feedback on services they have used. We sometimes also survey subscribers to various other websites and publications and survey a sampling of other area consumers. On our surveys, we ask consumers to rate their experiences with emergency departments they had most recently used on several aspects of service. Our ratings tables show the percent of each hospital’s surveyed customers who provided a rating of “very good” or “excellent” (as opposed to “poor,” “fair,” or “good”) for questions on our survey.

Since some hospitals were rated by rather small numbers of raters, small differences between two hospitals in the percentage of raters who gave a particular rating should be ignored.

When using these survey data, remember that the questions are to some degree subjective and that the differences among hospitals might be explained by differences in the personalities, backgrounds, critical standards, and other characteristics of the raters or by biases these raters might have.

Surveys of Area Physicians

Our ratings tables also report results of a survey in which physicians told us which hospital emergency departments they considered “most desirable” and which they considered “least desirable” “for emergency treatment of minor injuries” and “for emergency treatment of major injuries.” The ratings tables show, among the physicians who mentioned each hospital, what percentage considered it “most desirable.”

How Often Hospitals Followed Best Treatment Guidelines for Stroke and Heart Attack Patients

Our ratings tables we report the overall percentage of instances in which the hospitals performed the proper tests or procedures for stroke and heart attack cases. These scores are derived from data published on the federal government’s Hospital Compare website (www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare).

To collect these data, the federal government examined patient records for each hospital and assessed how often hospitals performed recommended tests or treatments known to produce the best results for patients with certain medical conditions. This analysis examines, for example, how often hospitals gave heart-attack patients aspirin upon arrival and how often hospitals gave stroke patients medicine to break up blood clots within three hours.

Our ratings tables list aggregate scores calculated across all measures for heart attack and stroke. (In other words, we added up all of the instances where a given hospital performed the proper tests and/or treatments across all reported measures, and then divided that total by the number of times the hospital had an opportunity to perform the proper tests and/or treatments.)

Quality of In-patient Hospital Services

Since there’s a good chance in a complex case that you’ll need a range of services from the hospital, and that you’ll be admitted to the hospital as an inpatient, you want a hospital that has high-quality backup services—such as laboratory and imaging services—and that provides high-quality care to its inpatients. Much of the data reported on our ratings tables for emergency departments comes from key ratings of hospitals for inpatient care, which can be found in the “Hospitals” section of this website.

Timeliness of the Data

All of the data must be interpreted in view of timeliness. Patient ratings come from surveys conducted from January 2010 to September 2015. Survey respondents were asked to report on experiences in the preceding year. Data from Medicare’s Hospital Compare website were those the government reported in August 2015. See article text for additional dates.

Top Ratings

We give checkmarks to hospitals that score highest on a scoring system that we devise for each service field. Our scoring systems weight the various data in our tables and text based on our subjective judgment of their importance. Since the scores are based entirely on information presented, you can apply your own subjective judgments, and decide whether you prefer hospitals we have not given checkmarks. Where we do not have important data on a hospital, we cannot give our checkmark.