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Becoming Great: 5 Common Characteristics of the Best Hospitals

August 15, 2018

The U.S. News & World Report 2018-19 Best Hospitals Honor Roll was released earlier this week, and those 20 hospitals join the 10 children’s hospitals named to the Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll as the top-ranked hospitals in the nation.

What do all of these hospitals have in common? The U.S. News & World Report methodology will tell you that they are, objectively, the best: Researchers pore over deep data on measures such as risk-adjusted survival and readmission rates, volumes, patient experience, patient safety and quality of nursing, among other care-related indicators.

But that inherently begs the question: How were these hospitals able to achieve such impressive results in the first place? How did they become great?

Through our longstanding relationships with all of these prestigious organizations, we are honored to have a front-row seat to how they operate and insight into how they’re able to perform and deliver at such a high level. These are the top five characteristics that all 30 Best Hospitals embody each and every day:

1. Put Patients First

It’s one thing to say you put patients first. It’s completely different to actually entrench that mantra into every department and interaction. Whether it’s something as simple as posting a wayfinding sign to guide patients to the right place, or as complex as implementing enterprise technology for clinicians, at every turn these hospitals are asking ‘How will this affect our patients?’ Every employee, whether or not they have a clinical or patient-facing role, has a patient-centric mindset and ‘patients come first’ is embedded in their DNA.

2. Deliver Compassionate Care

Patients enter through hospital doors at the most vulnerable time in their lives. They’re looking not only to get better, but they’re also seeking comfort. They’re searching for reassurance from healthcare professionals who will tell them they’re going to be OK, explain ‘here’s what we’re going to do’, and know they’re not alone in the battle they’re facing. The best hospitals deeply understand that empathy is a critical component of delivering exceptional patient care. They approach each patient as an individual, not a number or a disease or a condition. They treat them, and their families, like they would want their own loved ones to be treated.

3. Commit to Excellence

These organizations didn’t land on the Best Hospitals Honor Roll by accident. The overwhelming majority have been on the list before, sometimes for decades. That speaks to a systematic, purposeful commitment to excellence. It means their staff is dedicated to reviewing and measuring everything they do on a routine basis, and employing process improvements, lean methodologies, and new technologies to do it even better. From the C-suite leaders to the clinicians to the contact center operators, they are fully committed to delivering the best outcomes and making their communities healthier.

4. Foster a Culture of Innovation

Another differentiator of the best hospitals is the willingness to take risks and invest in innovation to propel them to new heights. This may come in the form of leveraging state-of-the-art technologies, like digitally simulated image-guided operations or machine learning to aid diagnosis, or the latest evidence-based treatments. It could mean continuing to improve communication and collaboration among care teams by building on the platform they have in place. Innovation is all about finding new ways to make care better.

5. Trust Spok for Communication

You probably knew this one was coming if you already saw our news release: All 30 Best Hospitals trust Spok for clinical communications. Each organization leverages Spok Care Connect to facilitate smarter communication and collaboration among their care teams. They all use it in their own way—they each have their own unique workflows, diverse device mix, and so on—but what’s most important is that they can count on it.

Staff at Spok hospitals know that when they send a message it will go through. It will be read, and it will be acted on. When a patient hits their nurse call button or a patient monitoring device or clinical surveillance system indicates that something is going wrong, that notification is automatically sent to the right person or the right team for rapid response. When a loved one calls into the contact center to check on the status of a patient, the operator is able to quickly relay that valuable information and provide some peace of mind.


As you can see, the Best Hospitals have much more in common than objective results and hard metrics. They put the patient first in everything they do, approach care with compassion and understanding, are committed to rigors required for excellence, foster a culture of innovation, and rely on Spok for communication when seconds count.

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By Vince Kelly
Vince Kelly is President and CEO of Spok Holdings, Inc. He has been a leader in the communications industry for more than 25 years with extensive experience in strategic planning, M&A, and regulatory and financial matters. Kelly became a Director, President and CEO of USA Mobility, Inc. (now Spok) in November 2004 when the company was formed through the merger of Metrocall, Inc. and Arch Wireless, Inc.