Healthcare in the Twin Cities

Cost, accessibility, outcomes factor into Minnesota’s No. 1 ranking in healthcare
Children's Hospital
Children’s Hospital

Photo by Scott Streble

When it comes to overall life satisfaction, Minnesotans are the happiest, according to experts at personal finance site WalletHub. The site crowned Minnesota among the top “Happiest States in the U.S.” Part of that happiness comes from our access to health care. According to the same organization, we’re also the “No. 1 Best State for Health Care.”

The study compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia across 43 measures of health care cost, accessibility and outcomes (factors included life expectancy, quality of hospital care systems, physicians per capita, maternal mortality rates, heart disease rates, cancer rates and average monthly insurance premiums). The methodology used data from nearly 5,000 medical centers and survey responses from more than 30,000 physicians, with factors of survival rates, patient safety, specialized staff and reputation in the specialties of cancer, diabetes, rheumatology and more.

Minnesota lives up to its reputation. For one, we are home to Mayo Clinic, just 90 minutes south of the Twin Cities in Rochester. The world-renowned medical center was ranked
No. 1 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s 2019-20 “Best Hospitals Honor Roll.” Founded more than a century ago, Mayo attracts 350,000 patients a year. Past patients include Helen Keller, Ernest Hemingway, President George H. W. Bush, King Hussein of Jordan and the Dalai Lama (among many, many other celebrities and dignitaries). The nonprofit, physician-led health system includes a teaching hospital, a research hospital (there are 57 research centers), a general medical facility and a surgical facility. Minnesotans regularly drive to the sprawling Rochester campus for same-day test results, for state-of-the-art treatment and to find answers to complex cases. Access to more than 4,700 physicians and scientists on three campuses—and a truly collaborative teamwork mentality—is one of Mayo’s biggest advantages.       

Other stellar hospitals recognized in U.S. News & World Report include Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis, Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, Fairview Ridges in Burnsville, Fairview Southdale in Edina, M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center, Woodwinds Health Campus in Woodbury, Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, St. Joseph’s in St. Paul (the state’s oldest hospital), St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth and St. Cloud Hospital.

The largest private hospital in the Twin Cities, Abbott Northwestern Hospital is known for its skilled, knowledgeable, and compassionate staff. In December of 2019, the hospital also received the highest national honor for nursing excellence—Magnet recognition from the American Nurses Credentialing Center—identifying superior quality in nursing care.

Regions Hospital in St. Paul also ranked high in U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Hospitals. Regions has a Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center and excels, as many of our hospitals do, in multiple fields, including mental health, births, orthopedics and cancer care. It was further recognized with a “Top 25 Environmental Excellence Award” by Practice Greenhealth, the highest honor recognizing excellence and dedication to sustainability in health care. It was also the only hospital in Minnesota named as one of the nation’s 2018 “50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals” by Watson Health.

Another point of pride is M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center, located in Minneapolis and nationally ranked in cancer care. The expanded partnership of the University of Minnesota, University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview brings together 11 hospitals, 56 primary care clinics and other services into a shared care delivery system led by a single leadership structure. This teaching hospital serves thousands of patients annually, optimizing access to innovative technology to maintain the highest standards of care.

Three Minnesota hospitals were ranked among the top 50 in pediatric specialties in USN&WR’s study: Mayo Clinic Children’s Center in Rochester, University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis and Children’s Minnesota in Minneapolis. Ben Harder, chief of health analysis and managing editor at U.S. News, wrote that the objective of the study was to “provide families with a comprehensive and trusted starting point as they, in consultation with their doctors and other medical professionals, search for the pediatric care they need.” 

Many scientific studies also show significant health benefits to spending time outdoors—an area where Minnesotans excel. Specialists “prescribe” outdoor activities to control weight, lower blood pressure, increase serotonin levels, strengthen muscles and joints, get a better night’s rest and fill the void of loneliness and boredom. Whether we’re canoeing the Mississippi River, birdwatching in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, mountain biking in Lebanon Hills Regional Park, camping, fishing, sailing, ziplining, hiking, trail running, paragliding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing, we don’t like to be indoors if we can help it. We have ski destinations, nearly 11,000 lakes and a vast network of forests and trails. St. Croix State Park has the most miles of hiking trails at 127—double what the next two parks can claim (Jay Cooke has 50 miles and Itasca 49). John A. Latsch State Park, near Winona, is home to the park system’s steepest hike, which is rewarded with a beautiful view. And the remote and pristine Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in Ely is a backcountry paradise, a five-hour drive from the Twin Cities. Covering 19,000 acres of over 1,100 lakes and 1,500 miles of canoe routes, visitors hike (this is raw and real trekking, with rock-hopping and muddy-water-wading), portage canoes, fish, camp, see abundant wildlife up close and possibly even witness the beauty of the Northern Lights. There are no roads or businesses in the Boundary Waters, just Mother Nature. 

No matter the activity, exercise habits and outdoor exploration help Minnesotans keep life-threatening illness rates—for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and asthma—low and quality of life high.