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How Can I Find a Good Hospital?

Check websites that pool information on success rates and care

Q. I need to be hospitalized. How should I decide on the best facility for my needs?

A. Many patients rely solely on their doctor's recommendation, and while that's a good starting point, there are other factors to consider.

See also: Know all your treatment options.

You'll want to know if a facility has experience and a high success rate for your condition or procedure; whether it's accredited by the Joint Commission; and, of course, whether it's covered by your health plan.

You can get some answers by calling different facilities yourself. You might also get recommendations from the local chapters of condition-centric groups such as the American Cancer Society or American Heart Association.

But perhaps the best info can be gleaned by checking these four websites:

  • Hospital Compare, operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lets you search for facilities based on your medical condition or surgical procedure. It includes survey results from patients on their quality of care, and information from hospitals that have submitted information on care quality. (If a local hospital is not there, it either means it did not submit the information or did not agree to make the information public.)
  • HealthGrades gives information and ratings on 5,000 hospitals and 750,000 doctors, pooled from dozens of sources, including the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. You can search by state or city and then by specialty. In the hospital rating area, you can check on such things as awards and patient survival rates.
  • QualityCheck.org is the website of the Joint Commission, which awards accreditations and certifications to hospitals. To receive these accolades, hospitals must voluntarily seek them out and meet specific criteria. The Joint Commission makes periodic checks to ensure quality is maintained. Its website lists facilities it has accredited and certified, searchable by name, ZIP or city, and type of service or provider.
  • Healthcare Reviews lists anonymous postings from patients about their experiences with certain doctors or hospitals. Expect strong feelings ­ — good or bad — from people who took the time to post their reviews.

You may also like: Tips to avoid a return trip to the hospital. >>

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.

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