How to choose a hospital
You may not always have the opportunity to choose the hospital from which you receive care, especially in an emergency. However, when you or a loved one has a planned admission to the hospital, obtaining some important information first can help make your hospital experience a positive one.
You do have choices. It’s up to you to make sure that the hospital you choose meets your needs and provides high quality care for the services you or a loved one will need. All the options should be investigated to make sure you make the best decision.
Begin by asking your doctor about the advantages or special characteristics of each hospital where he or she practices.
Your doctor can help you select the hospital that is best for you. You should also verify which hospitals are accepted by your insurance, HMO or PPO plan.
The following information, provided by the Pacific Business Group on Health (affiliated with the Colorado Business Group on Health), can help you choose the quality health care you want.
The hospital’s relationship with your doctor and health plan
Your hospital choices may be limited by the health plan you select. Health plans often have a network of hospitals from which you and your doctor can choose. Some plans may include many hospitals but you pay more to use certain ones. Who your doctor is also may limit your choices. Doctors usually have relationships with one or several hospitals. So check with your health plan and doctor to be clear on which hospitals you can go to for care and if your choice affects how much you pay.
The hospital’s experience with the care you need
When selecting a hospital for care, it is important to know how much experience a hospital has with the type of care you need. For example, if you are going to have a particular type of heart surgery, it is important to know how many of this surgery the hospital has done in the past year. Research shows that the more of a particular treatment a hospital does, the better the patients.
One important sign of hospital quality are the results of treatment. Are complications avoided? Do patients recover as planned? Do patients return to normal activities? And most important, do patients survive? Ideally we would have data that compares treatment results between hospitals. Unfortunately, for many treatments, hospitals do not report how well the patients do after the surgery or care. In these cases, the next best piece of information is the number of patients the hospital has treated for that condition.
Learning what the patients say about their hospital experience is another important way to gauge hospital quality. Some aspects of quality can only be measured by asking the patient about their experience. This includes patient reports about having their preferences respected, being treated with dignity, minimizing their pain, giving emotional support and supporting family and friends who are helping the patient.
Meeting national quality standards
Hospitals can choose to be reviewed by the Joint Commission to make sure they meet certain hospital quality standards. These standards address the quality of staff, equipment and the hospital’s success in treating patients.
If a hospital meets these standards, it becomes accredited by the Joint Commission (gets a “seal of approval”).
To look up a hospital’s accreditation status online, go to http://www.qualitycheck.org/consumer/searchQCR.aspx# and fill out the search form.
In addition to these quality checks, there are other hospital characteristics to look at when selecting hospitals.
Some of these include quality assurance, or how the hospital monitors its quality-of-care; staffing and service capabilities, such as the percentage of board certified physicians in emergency medicine and the number of emergency room visits that occurred in the past year; and cost, such as how much a surgical procedure costs or how much it costs per night of stay.