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?
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)
How well does the hospital check and improve on its own quality of care?
More and more hospitals are trying to improve the quality of
their care. One way is to keep track of patient outcomes for certain
procedures. Another way is to keep track of patient injuries and infections
that occur in the hospital. By finding out what works and what doesn't, the
hospital can improve the way it treats patients.
Ask the hospital quality management (or assurance) department
how it monitors and improves the hospital's quality of care. Also, ask for any
patient satisfaction surveys the hospital has done. These will tell you how
other patients have rated the quality of their care.