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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 patients.

Quick Check for Quality

Look for a hospital that:

  • Is accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
  • 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 considering.

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 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 hospital.

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