Hospital Care: Does Your State Rate?
All states -- even ones at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to hospital care -- have good hospitals and bad hospitals. What do you look for in a good hospital?
Finding a Quality Hospital
How can you choose the best quality hospital for the care you
need? It is important to consider quality because research shows that some
hospitals simply do a better job than others. For example, we know that
hospitals that do a greater number of the same surgeries have better outcomes
for their patients.
Look for a hospital that:
- Is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare
- Is rated highly by state or consumer or other groups
- Is one where your doctor has privileges, if that is important to you
- Is covered by your health plan
- Has experience with your condition
- Has had success with your condition
- Checks and works to improve its own quality of care
Asking the Right Questions
Asking the right questions can help you make the best choices.
Does the hospital meet national quality standards?
Hospitals can choose to be surveyed by the Joint Commission on
Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) to make sure they meet
certain quality standards. The standards address the quality of staff and
equipment and the hospital's success in treating and curing patients. If a
hospital meets those standards, it becomes accredited (gets a "seal of
approval"). Reviews are done at least every three years. Most hospitals
participate in this program.
You can order JCAHO's performance reports free of charge by
calling (630) 792-5800. Or check the JCAHO's Web site at www.jcaho.org for a
hospital's performance report or for its accreditation status.
How does the hospital compare with others in my area?
One important way to learn about hospital quality is to look at hospital
report cards developed by states and consumer groups. A recent study about such
reports found that besides helping consumers make informed choices, they also
encourage hospitals to improve their quality of care. This is a very good
reason to look for and use consumer information about hospitals. Also, ask your
doctor what he or she thinks about the hospital.
Does the hospital have experience with my condition?
For example, "general" hospitals handle a wide range of
routine conditions, such as hernias and pneumonia. "Specialty"
hospitals have a lot of experience with certain conditions (such as cancer) or
certain groups (such as children). You may be able to choose General Hospital
"X" for gallbladder surgery, Specialty Hospital "Y" if you need
care for a heart condition, and Specialty Hospital "Z" for your
You also may want to find out if the hospital has a special
team of health professionals that works with people with your condition or
Has the hospital had success with my condition?
Research shows that hospitals that do many of the same types of
procedures tend to have better success with them. In other words, "practice
makes perfect." Ask your doctor or the hospital if there is information
- How often the procedure is done there
- How often the doctor does the procedure
- The patient outcomes (how well the patients do)