Roswell Park Cancer Institute landed back in the top 50 hospitals for cancer in the latest U.S. News & World Report national rankings of hospitals.
The magazine also identified hospitals that, although not among the top-rated for 2017-18, performed significantly better than average.
Roswell Park, which was ranked 33rd overall, received such "high-performing" listings for urology and lung cancer surgery, and Kaleida Health's Buffalo General Medical Center rated was high-performing in nine categories, including heart bypass surgery, hip replacement, and neurology and neurosurgery.
Among 30 hospitals ranked in New York, Buffalo General rated 11th, with New York-Presbyterian in Manhattan ranked No. 1 in the state.
Indicative of the somewhat variable nature of the national rankings, Roswell Park fell out of the top 50 cancer hospitals in 2016-17. U.S. News ranked the cancer center 43rd the year before and 50th the year before that.
"We didn't just make it into the ranking, so we're excited. It shows we are doing a better job," said Candace Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Roswell Park.
One other reason for the cancer center's move back into the top 50 might have been technical – a change in data and statistical adjustments the magazine used for Medicare patients, depending on whether the patients were in the traditional fee-for-service program or in managed Medicare plans, said Dr. Stephen Edge, vice president of health care outcomes and policy at the cancer center.
U.S. News compared more than 4,500 medical centers nationwide in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., topped the listing of 20 overall best hospitals, followed by the Cleveland Clinic and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Md.
The top-ranked hospital for cancer was the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In upstate New York, Rochester General Hospital ranked 44th out of 50 for pulmonology, and Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester 39th for neurology and neurosurgery.
The magazine's ranking methodology relies on a subjective view of reputation based on a physician survey, as well as on such objective measures as risk-adjusted survival and readmission rates, hospital volume, patient experience, patient safety and quality of nursing.
More than 70 percent of the rankings are based on objective measures, according to U.S. News. It said the rankings this year include more data, including five years of statistics from Medicare, the federal health plan for people 65 and older, as well as socioeconomic data, in an attempt not to penalize hospitals that treat low-income patients or high-risk cases transferred from other hospitals.
Experts advise patients to use the list only as a starting point to make health care choices. The magazine's hospital ranking is one of many, and often attracts criticism as a popularity contest for using reputation to help calculate the listings. Regardless, because of the magazine's familiarity and influence, hospitals pay attention to the results and use them to market to patients and to recruit physicians.
"You can find flaws in the rankings, but you have to take it seriously," said Johnson. "Patients look at it, so it matters. And, so do other physicians."
Three downstate hospitals made the top 20 overall national hospital listing: New York-Presbyterian at No. 8, Mount Sinai at No. 18, and NYU Langone Medical Center at No. 19.
Four downstate hospitals were included in the top 50 cancer hospitals: Memorial Sloan Kettering at No. 2, New York-Presbyterian at No. 22, and Mount Sinai and NYU Langone tied at No. 44.