What's most impressive about Mayo Clinic's No. 1 ranking as the best hospital in the country by U.S. News & World Report magazine were the consistent high marks in several categories of evaluation.

The report gave Mayo No. 1 or No. 2 rankings in 11 of the 12 specialties based on reputation, services and volumes, safety and clinical outcomes. Mayo ranked first in diabetes and endocrinology; ear, nose and throat; gastroenterology and GI surgery; nephrology; neurology and neurosurgery; and pulmonology.

The top rankings, we believe, are a big factor in attracting patients from out of state and from overseas. While a person needing routine medical care often will go to a local hospital, one with a rare medical condition is apt to research hospitals with a renowned reputation in certain specialties. For example, if you have a lung disease that has perplexed your local doctors, you may seek a referral to Mayo since U.S. News has ranked it No. 1 in pulmonary medicine. People with a kidney ailments that have gone unsolved by their local urologists might fly to Mayo because of its first-place ranking in nephrology.

While there are other organizations offering hospital assessments, such as Healthgrades, Truven Health Analytics, Consumer Union, the Leapfrog Group and The Joint Commission, the annual survey compiled by U.S. News & World Report of more than 4,700 medical centers throughout the country is the most prominent and most coveted, making these rankings much more than just bragging rights.

Seventy percent of Rochester visitors travel to the city for reasons connected to Mayo, according to data collected by the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau. About 10 percent of those people are vendors — convention attendees, contractors, suppliers and pharmaceutical representatives — but the remaining 90 percent are here for medical reasons.

The ratings have economic impact, especially for Mayo when it competes for medical visitors from other hospitals based in major metropolitan areas. In the U.S. News rankings, Mayo edged out Massachusetts General Hospital of Boston. Johns Hopkins Hospital of Baltimore was No. 3. Cleveland Clinic ranked fourth.

Rochester, with a population of nearly 110,000, has more than 5,400 hotel rooms and could pass 6,000 by year's end. Boston, with a 646,000 population, has 22,000 rooms. Baltimore, with a 620,000 population, has more than 10,000 rooms. Cleveland, with a 390,000 population, has 21,000 rooms.

The rankings, when compared with other hospitals on the list, bolster the importance of the Destination Medical Center project. DMC will receive $585 million in public funds for Mayo's 20-year, $6 billion expansion effort. To compete with medical institutions from major metropolitan areas, DMC consultants will have to thoughtfully plan the needed infrastructure as the expansion unfolds.

There are thousands of good hospitals across the country. According to U.S. News & World Report, we have the best one in our backyard. It's up to us to keep that way.

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