Usually U.S. News & World Report rates Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center somewhere among the top 35 hospitals in Florida for treating complex and high-risk cases, but not this year.

Last year it was ranked as No. 15 in the state; in 2019 it was No. 21; in 2017, it was No. 23; and in 2016, No. 11. The ranking for 2018 was unavailable.

Lakeland Regional was also ranked as the best hospital in Polk County last year. This year no hospital received that rank.

To earn Best Regional Hospital designation in a metro area, a hospital needs to have at least six high-performing ratings across the 17 procedures and conditions and have no or few low-performance ratings. Both Lakeland Regional Medical Center and Winter Haven Hospital had four high-performance scores and one below-average score.

Links: U.S. News Best Hospitals | Lakeland Regional Medical Center rankings

Lakeland Regional declined to comment about its changing status.

Like nearly four out of five hospitals nationwide, Lakeland Regional and most other nearby hospitals scored moderately low to low in a new category, health equity, which compares numbers of minority patients treated as a percentage of their population.

Typically, larger hospitals score higher in the U.S. News & World Report rating system, which first looks at how hospitals handle complicated, life-threatening cases, then evaluates performance on a variety of common procedures and conditions.

Lakeland Regional was high performing (5 out 5 stars) in four among 17 procedures and conditions:

  • Colon cancer surgery
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Knee replacement

In the other procedures/conditions categories, it scored average. However, it scored below average, 2 out of 5 stars, on patient experience.

The scores were based on data from 2015 through 2019. Since 2015, many hospitals have made changes that may impact future scores.

For example:

  • Lakeland Regional opened a pavilion for women and children’s care that reduced crowding in the main facility and allowed for expansion in a variety of specialties.
  • Winter Haven Hospital opened an addition that allowed for expansion of emergency and other services.
  • Heart of Florida Hospital (ranked below average in three areas) and Lake Wales Hospital (ranked below average in four areas) were sold by a financially struggling for-profit national hospital chain to the not-for-profit regional chain AdventHealth.

U.S. News & World Reports’ ratings, which came out last week, evaluated 4,253 general-admission hospitals nationwide. It gave high-performing designations to the top 10 to 20 percent and low-performing to the bottom 10 to 20 percent in the various categories. The bulk of the scores fell into the average category.

No Florida hospitals made the top-20 national honor roll. The top three nationally were Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., Cleveland Clinic at Cleveland, and UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

In Florida, 35 were ranked as tops in the state among the 253 hospitals evaluated.

Tampa General Hospital, which is 37 miles from Lakeland Regional, was rated as the No. 4 hospital in Florida.

Tampa General was ranked among the top 50 hospitals nationally in six adult specialties: ear, nose and throat, No. 21; orthopedics, No. 23; gastroenterology and GI surgery, No. 26; diabetes and endocrinology, No. 28, and rehabilitation, No. 36. It was high performing in four adult specialties and in 12 of the 17 procedures and conditions evaluated. It was average in patient satisfaction, receiving 3 out of 5 stars.

U.S. News & World Report cautions that patients may want to go to top-ranked specialty hospitals for rare, life-threatening and difficult-to-treat conditions but for more-common conditions it may make sense for a patient to go to a nearby hospital with average ratings, depending on patient circumstances, insurance networks and distance.

“Remember, even if a hospital isn’t in the top 10 or high performing, it’s one of the best hospitals in the country for that specialty by virtue of being rated at all,” U.S. News & World Report said in its report.

The top-ranked hospital in the state was Mayo Clinic – Jacksonville, 190 miles from Lakeland Regional, followed by UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, 120 miles from Lakeland Regional. AdventHealth, Orlando, 56 miles from Lakeland Regional, came in at No. 3.

Orlando Regional Medical Center, 65 miles from Lakeland Regional, came in at No. 8 in the state. It is part of the Orlando Health System, which has received zoning approval by Lakeland officials to build a small hospital off Lakeland Highlands Road just south of the Polk Parkway. While the premier hospital in chains such as Orlando Health System and AdventHealth are often highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report, their smaller hospitals frequently have more average scores.

Most of the top-performing hospitals in the state, including Tampa General, are teaching hospital. Lakeland Regional, which according to its number of licensed beds, 864, is among the 10 largest hospitals in the state, has been unable to get the Legislature’s approval to become a teaching hospital.

The scores in the U.S. News & World Report analysis are based on data from Medicare in pre-pandemic years. The report noted that while Medicare data includes only the retiree-age population, that data is relevant for all age groups because of the wide variety of health issues and severity of illness among older people.

Nearby hospital scores

Those searching for alternative care to Lakeland Regional Health may be looking at nearby hospitals’ scores.

* Bartow Regional Medical Center, 13 miles from Lakeland Regional, ranked 4 out of 5 stars on patient experience and was high performing in one condition, heart failure. It received no below-average scores, but because it is a very small hospital was not scored in all conditions and procedures.

* South Florida Baptist in Plant City (15 miles from Lakeland Regional) scored 4 out of 5 stars in patient experience. It was high performing, 5 out of 5 stars, in three procedures/conditions: heart failure, kidney failure and COPD. Like Lakeland Regional, it received no low-performing scores on procedures/conditions, although as a smaller hospital, it was not scored in as many areas.

* Winter Haven Hospital (16 miles from Lakeland Regional) scored average, 3 out of 5 stars, on patient experience. It was high performing (5 out of 5 stars) in four procedures/conditions: knee replacement, hip replacement, stroke and COPD. It was scored below average, 2 out of 5 stars, in lung cancer surgery.

* Brandon Regional Hospital (27 miles from Lakeland Regional and licensed) was high performing in three procedures and conditions but was below average in six procedures and conditions and scored only two out of five stars on patient experience. On the high end, it scored 5 out of 5 stars, in heart failure, heart attack and COPD, but it was low performing, scoring 2 out of 5 stars, in colon cancer surgery, lung cancer surgery, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, transcatheter aortic valve replacement back surgery-spinal fusion and hip fracture.

* AdventHealth Heart of Florida in Davenport, 29 miles from Lakeland Regional, was high performing in three procedures/conditions: heart failure, kidney failure and COPD. However it was ranked below average (2 out of 5 stars) in hip fracture and back surgery-spinal fusion. It scored poorly on patient experience, receiving 1 out of 5 stars.

* AdventHealth Lake Wales, 31 miles from Lakeland Regional, was high performing in one procedure, COPD. It was below average (2 out of 5 stars) in heart attack, knee replacement and hip replacement. And it was ranked 2 out of 5 stars in patient experience.

* Tampa General Hospital, 37 miles from Lakeland Regional Health, was ranked as high performing in cancer overall although average in procedures for colon cancer surgery and lung cancer surgery. It also received 5 out of 5 stars in five of the seven heart conditions and procedures evaluated –- heart failure, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, heart bypass surgery, transcatheter aortic valve replacement, and heart attack –- although it was scored nationally as average overall in cardiology and heart surgery, albeit the score was at the highest end of the average range.

Tampa General was also ranked as high performing in the following procedures and conditions: (neurology and neurosurgery) back surgery-spinal fusion, stroke; (diabetes and endocrinology) diabetes; (nephrology) kidney failure; (orthopedics) knee replacement, hip replacement; (pulmonolgy and lung surgery) COPD and pneumonia. It also rated as high-performing in geriatrics.

Cancer and Heart Disease

In colon cancer surgery, Lakeland Regional was a standout While 4,300 hospitals were evaluated, many did not perform enough colon cancer procedures to be evaluated. Lakeland Regional was among 445 hospitals that received a high-performance rating nationwide, making it among the top 20 percent.

For lung cancer surgery, Lakeland Regional fell into the average category, scoring 3 out of 5.

In overall cancer treatment, Lakeland Regional received a 23.3/100 for cancer treatment, compared with 20.6/100 at Winter Haven Hospital and 49.3/100 at Tampa General,

While thousands of hospitals were evaluated, only 850 hospitals nationwide qualified for scoring in the cancer treatment category, Overall Lakeland Regional was slightly below the midpoint in the average ranking,

Under cardiology and heart surgery, in addition to scoring 5 out of five 5 stars for heart failure and heart attack — which placed it among the top quarter of hospitals nationwide — Lakeland Regional scored average, 3 out of 5 stars, for abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, aortic valve surgery, heart bypass surgery, and transcatherer aortic valve replacement.

There was no overall score in cardiology listed for Lakeland Regional, South Florida Baptist nor Heart of Florida, both which offered fewer types of procedures than Lakeland Regional. Winter Haven Hospital -– which rated average in heart failure and hear attack and offered fewer procedures than Lakeland –- scored 14.9/100. The top hospital in the region, Tampa General, was scored at 54.1/100 overall.

Other Categories

In diabetes and endocrinology, Lakeland Regional’s overall scorecard was 24.6/100; Winter Haven’s was 28.2/100, and Brandon’s was 11.1/100. Heart of Florida, Lake Wales, Bartow and South Florida Baptist were not scored in that category. Tampa General’s overall score was 57.8/100.

In gastroenterlolgy and GI surgery, Lakeland Regional’s overall scorecoard was 36.3/100, which was about midpoint among all the hospitals nationwide that were scored. The score is comparable to other local hospitals that performed enough procedures to be scored: 35/100 at Heart of Florida, 33.6/100 at South Florida Baptist; 32.1 at Winter Haven and 27.2/100 at Brandon. Comparing Lakeland’s score to some of the hospitals in the more densely populated Tampa Bay region, Tampa General’s score was 71.2/100, St. Joseph’s Tampa was 51.1/100 and AdventHealth Tampa was 46.2/100.

In geriatrics, Lakeland Regional’s score was 47.4/100, slightly above the midpoint of those with average scores nationwide. That compared with 44.9 at South Florida Baptist, 47.1 at Heart of Florida, 41.5 at Winter Haven, and 40.7 at Lake Wales. In the Tampa Bay area, the scores were generally higher: 69.0 at Tampa General, 57.4 at Morton Plant in Clearwater, and 48.5 at AdventHealth Carrollwood.

In gynecology, Lakeland scored 39.0/100, which was slightly above the midpoint among average scores nationwide but far below the 57.9 at Tampa General. Brandon scored 11.1. South Florida Baptist, Winter Haven and other smaller hospitals near Lakeland Regional were not scored in this category.

Under the nephrology category, Lakeland Regional scored 3 out of 5 in treating kidney failure. Quality indicators show it treated a very high number of patients, had average staffing for nurses but had a low 30-day survival rate. Winter Haven’s scores were nearly the same as Lakeland’s, although it ranked higher on nurse staffing. South Florida Baptist scored higher on treating kidney failure, 5 out of 5 stars, with an average 30-day survival rate. In comparison, Tampa General rated 5 out of 5 stars on treating kidney failure and excellent or very high on all quality indicators.

In neurology and neurosurgery, Lakeland Regional’s overall scorecard was 27.3/100, which fell in the middle among hospitals nationwide that performed enough procedures to be scored. By comparison, Winter Haven’s overall scorecard was 33.6, slightly above the midpoint nationwide. Brandon Memorial was scored at 13.1 overall and South Florida Baptist did not receive an overall scorecard. The highest scoring hospital in the Tampa Bay area was Tampa General with 60.2.

In orthopedics, Lakeland Regional’s overall score was 25.2/100, compared with Brandon Memorial 38.4; Heart of Florida 24.8/100 and Winter Haven 20.7/10. Tampa General, which was among the top 50 hospitals nationally in orthopedics, had an overall score of 58.6/100.

In pulmonology and lung surgery, Lakeland Regional’s overall score was 32.6/100 compared with Winter Haven at 27.9/100, Heart of Florida at 27.1/100, Lake Wales 25.6/100, and Brandon 21.5/100. South Florida Baptist and Bartow were not scored in this category. Tampa General, which was ranked nationally in pulmonology, had an overall score of 66.4/100.

In rehabilitation, Lakeland Regional’s overall score was 32.7/100, which was slightly above the midpoint among the hospitals scored as average nationwide. Winter Haven’s program had insufficient number of complex cases to be scored. Tampa General was nationally ranked with an overall score of 51.4.

In urology, Lakeland Regional’s overall score was 28.5/100, which is slightly above the midpoint among the hospitals that were scored nationwide. It compares to 23.6 at Heart of Florida and 18.7/100 at Winter Haven and 13.2/100 at Brandon.

Patient Satisfaction, Health Equity

Overall, Lakeland Regional scored below average in patient satisfaction. Under quality indicators, the score broke down with average ratings, 3 out of 5 stars, in satisfaction with the nurses’ communication, staff responsiveness, hospital overall, willingness to recommend, and noise volume but below average, 2 out of 5 stars, on satisfaction with doctors’ communication, efforts to prevent medication harm, quality of information at discharge, involvement in recovery, and room cleanliness.

Lakeland Regional, Winter Haven Hospital, Heart of Florida and Tampa General are among the roughly 4 out of 5 U.S. hospitals where racial and ethnic minorities are underrepresented among patients who access common procedures, the U.S. News & World Report analysis showed.

“The analysis compared the number of Black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander patients who received certain common procedures at more than 1,400 hospitals to the racial or ethnic makeup of each hospital’s surrounding community,” the report explained.

Because this data was from Medicare data, access to insurance should not have been an issue.

When looking at how often elective procedures were accessed by minorities compared with whites, Lakeland Regional scored mostly in the moderately lower range and Tampa General mostly in the lower range. Winter Haven, Heart of Florida, Lake Wales, South Florida and Bartow were not scored in that category.

Lakeland Regional, like Winter Haven, Heart of Florida and Tampa General, scored at moderately less equitable at preventable hospitalizations for Black patients within the community.

Brandon Regional stood out as being among the 29 percent of hospitals in the analysis that treated a proportion of Black patients that was comparable to or higher than their percentage of the population. Brandon was not scored in most other equity quality indicators.

In good news, Lakeland Regional, Winter Haven and Heart of Florida each showed a strong five-year trend of improvement in potentially preventable hospitalizations among Black and non-Black residents. Tampa General’s trend remained about the same.

SEND CORRECTIONS, questions, feedback or news tips:


Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.

Leave a comment

Your Thoughts On This? (Comments are moderated; first and last name are required.)