The US News and World Report ratings are out and whenever that happens, the questions begin as to just how important are they to hospitals. If you are on the list, they are VERY important; if you aren't, their value can be immediately brought into question.
The clear benefit is the ability to market your health system and its ranking. With that said, it is important to mention that the hospitals listed are some of the best hospitals in the United States, so from that perspective US News and World Report gets it right. However, when you look closely at the criteria and data that are used, yikes, there are a great deal of inaccuracies. Take the Western Maryland Health System; we are ranked 11th overall in Maryland and number one in western Maryland. But there are a few problems such as, no geographic definition of western Maryland, a significant lag in the data that is used and at least for WMHS, the data is out and out wrong. They have us much larger than we actually are from a bed size perspective; we have many more physicians listed than we actually have in our individual clinical areas;and they don't rate some of our highly rated clinical areas by HealthGrades nearly as high and vice versa.
The bottomline is don't use the ratings as the only factor in determining how good a hospital / health system may be. There are numerous sources to check before deciding on which to use, but the US News and World Report rating are a very good place to start.