Four things to consider when choosing a hospital
When they need hospital care, many people simply go to the closest hospital or the one their doctor recommends. But if you need care at a hospital, whether it’s for labor and delivery, back surgery, joint replacement, cancer treatment, or treatment for heart disease, it’s important to do some research before you choose where to receive care.
There are four key factors to consider that can help you make a more informed decision.
- Does the hospital have a significant amount of experience caring for patients with your condition? Talk with your doctor to find out what type of care you need. For example, someone experiencing a high-risk pregnancy would need a different level of care and physician and staff expertise than someone whose pregnancy was uncomplicated. Will you need special equipment, like a robotic surgery system or intraoperative radiation therapy, to effectively treat your condition? Will you need specialized care or rehabilitation services as part of your recovery? When researching hospitals, ask how many patients they treat with your condition each year. In general, the higher the volume of patients treated with your condition, the better the overall outcomes.
- What are their outcomes when treating patients like you? It’s also valuable to find out how successfully they treat patients with your condition. Some hospitals include their outcomes on their websites. Other sources for this information include independent groups that monitor quality. Some states offer comparison tools on their Department of Health websites. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid also have an online tool for comparing hospital quality.
- Do you need a center of excellence? Especially if your condition is rare, complex, or serious (like advanced cancer or the need for an organ transplant), you may want to explore medical centers of excellence, including hospitals that are outside your immediate geographic area. Centers of excellence usually have more experienced providers, specialized equipment, and research programs and clinical trials that may expand your treatment options.
- Is a hospital’s popularity with patients a good measure of quality care? Local, regional, and national magazines, newspapers, and websites offer hospital and physician ratings based on patient satisfaction surveys and votes. While ratings based on patient surveys can offer some insight into the patient experience, they only highlight the experience of the patients who are chosen to be surveyed and who complete the survey. Top doctor and top hospital awards are often determined by votes from readers who may or may not have received care at the facility. Both these types of information are based on the subjective input of the survey respondents and voters, so they don’t measure key factors like quality of care, complication and infection rates, and outcomes.
A health advisor can be a helpful resource when you’re choosing a hospital. An advisor can provide unbiased data and information about the hospitals you’re considering, connect you with experienced specialists, gather, review, and consolidate your medical records, and facilitate second opinions.