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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?
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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 children.

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 treatment.

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 on:

  • 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.

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