Choosing a 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
Quick Check for Quality
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.
Choosing a Hospital Worksheet
The following questions can help you make the best choices. At the end you
will be able to print out your results summary for the hospital you are
You may not have a choice right now because of your health plan or doctor.
But keep these questions in mind for when you might make a change.
Does the hospital meet national quality standards?
(_) Yes (_) No
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—most
recently—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 3 years. Most hospitals
participate in this program.
The JCAHO prepares a performance report on each hospital that it surveys.
The report lists:
- Accreditation status (six levels—from the lowest, "Not Accredited,"
to the highest, "Accredited with Commendation").
- Date of the survey.
- Evaluation of the key areas reviewed during the survey.
- Results of any followup activity.
- Areas needing improvement.
- Comparison with national results.
You can order JCAHO's performance reports free of charge by calling
630-792-5800. Or, check the JCAHO's Web site at http://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. Here are some
ways to find such information:
- Some States—for example, Pennsylvania, California, and Ohio—have laws that
require hospitals to report data on the quality of their care. The information
is then given to the public so consumers can compare hospitals.
- Some groups gather information on how well hospitals perform and how
satisfied their patients are. An example is the Cleveland Health Quality Choice
Program, which is made up of businesses, doctors, and hospitals.
- Consumer groups publish guides to hospitals and other health care choices
in various cities. Find out what kind of information is available where you
live by calling your State department of health, health care council, or
hospital association. Also, ask your doctor what he or she thinks about the