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Selecting the Right Hospital for You

When you know a hospital stay is in your future, it's smart to do some research first

  • See how often a hospital gives the right treatments for certain conditions — like heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia — or procedures — like preventing surgical infections.
  • View the results of care or treatment for certain conditions or procedures.
  • See how much Medicare paid hospitals for certain conditions and procedures.
  • Find out what hospital patients said about the care they received during a recent hospital stay. Their experiences are an important part of good quality care. Feedback from patients to more than two dozen questions is currently available.
My agency, the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, developed the survey that asked patients about their hospital experiences. We also put together a checklist of questions that you can use to help you find a good hospital. These questions can also help you decide if you need more information. (AHRQ also has an interactive checklist of questions you may want to ask your doctor.)

The Joint Commission’s Quality Check website also lets you search for information on any hospital in the United States. This is a national, nonprofit organization that “accredits” hospitals to make sure they fully comply with all of the group’s quality standards. The Quality Check website can tell you whether a hospital is accredited and will identify hospitals that have not met quality standards. In addition, you can:
 
  • Find out the hospital’s quality performance from previous years.
  • Learn whether the hospital offers certified programs in specific disease areas, such as stroke care.
  • Get data on the hospital’s National Quality Improvement Goals. This tells you about the quality of care for several specific conditions, including children’s asthma, heart attack and heart failure, pneumonia, pregnancy, and preventing surgical infections.  
Measuring hospital quality isn’t a perfect science. But we have a lot of information today to help you make an educated decision. That’s the best decision for your peace of mind — and for your health.

You may also like: When to hire a health advocate. >>

 

Carolyn M. Clancy is a general internist and researcher, and the "Finding Your Way" columnist for AARP's Bulletin. As the director of the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality she is an expert about how consumers can engage in their health care. 

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