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    Hospital 'Matchmaking': Finding the Right One for You


    "It's important to consider whether you need a teaching hospital or a general community hospital," he says. People with a highly unusual or difficult-to-treat medical problem may require a teaching hospital. Teaching hospitals are basically training sites that are affiliated with a medical school and may be better at treating complex medical problems. If your physician does not have admitting privileges in such a hospital, it may be worth finding a new physician who does, Wade notes.

    "Once the doctor answers your questions, you can contact the hospital[s] to find out specifics," Wade says. When making your choice in advance, it's also important to inquire about follow-up services such as home-care, rehabilitation, patient education programs, and family support programs, Wade suggests. Also ask about the referral network, he notes. If the hospital is part of a larger referral system, ask what type of access you will have to other physicians or other types of care, such as mental health care.

    "If you need a particular type of surgery, find out which of the hospitals that you have to choose from has handled the most of these cases and has had the technology the longest," Wade offers. "It's important to find out how many patients with your particular problem that your doctor handles and how many procedures he does per year," suggests Theimann. And look on the office wall to find out if the physician is board certified in his field, he advises.

    When it comes to how many of a particular procedure a hospital performs, "four is bad and 1,000 is good, but 500 is a reasonable minimum," Theimann notes, pointing out that in rural areas hospitals may not be able to perform 1,000 of any such procedures. "More is always better," he adds. A particular surgeon or doctor should perform 75 of a given procedure each year, and more is better, he adds. "This probably spans the entire range of serious medical procedures," Theimann notes.

    But remember that "heart attack patients don't have much choice. It is not a matter of using an ambulance as a cab to go to the hospital of your choice," Theimann warns. "If you are having a heart attack, take an aspirin and call 911." In other words, sometimes closest is best.

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