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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

Doing a little homework before you choose a hospital can do more than give you peace of mind. Choosing a hospital that scores well on quality can make it easier — and safer — for a patient to recover from a serious event, like having heart surgery, or a more routine one, like having a baby.

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As a physician, let me emphasize that if you need emergency hospital care, go to the closest hospital. But if you aren’t facing an emergency, take time to do some research.

The good news is that there is a lot of information to help you make an educated choice about which hospital to use. But to get the most complete picture of the best hospital for your needs, it’s helpful to check several resources. It’s also a good idea to ask your doctor and your friends for their advice and why they prefer Hospital A over Hospital B.

To get an overall view of quality, you might start by reviewing hospital “report cards” that private groups produce. Hospital “grades” are based on different measures, and each group emphasizes some over others. For example, some grade hospitals on what doctors think of them, how many hospitals use computers to order drugs, and how well patients recover from different kinds of surgeries.

One downside to these report cards is that hospitals are not required to participate in them. This could mean there are no data about a specific hospital. Another problem is they often use data that are several years old. If you have already picked a hospital based on your insurance plan or your doctor’s advice, you can find out more about its overall quality of care. You can also find out how well it compares with other hospitals in your area.

The federal government has a useful source of information on hospital quality. The Hospital Compare website lets you find out how well hospitals care for adult patients with certain conditions. The vast majority of hospitals — about 90 percent — report their data on quality of care. Even if you are not covered by Medicare, this information can help you compare the quality of care that hospitals provide.
 

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