Like most things in life, not all hospitals are the same. Whether you know you’re going to need a hospital soon, or just in case of an emergency, spending a little time researching hospitals near your home can save you a great deal of trouble later. Here are some suggestions and ideas about what to look for in a good hospital.
First, think about the type of hospital you might need. Many offer mostly general care, while others specialize in certain areas such as cancer or orthopedics. Then, take advantage of one of more of the national ranking services that evaluate everything about a given hospital, from its available services, safety, rate of hospital-acquired infection, staff-to-patient ratios and more. Here are a few thing to consider and resources to examine.
The American Hospital Association maintains an extensivewebsite that you can search for a report card on hospitals across the country. Its sub-site, entitled Hospitals in Pursuit of Excellence, gives key facts about selected topics relevant to the quality of care in American hospitals.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains a database on statistics for US hospitals that can be very useful when comparing local institutions. For example, the National Hospital Discharge Survey gives data on all aspects of a hospital stay for the average institution, a good starting point when you want to evaluate data on a hospital you’re considering using.
U.S. News and World Report publishes a yearly ranking of almost 5,000 American hospitals, listed both as general service institutions and by specialty. At their website, you can search your locality to bring up detailed survey reports about each of your local hospitals. In addition, the site publishes a yearly “honor roll” of the top 15-20 hospitals in the nation. The report also breaks down hospitals by specialty. For example, if you need to choose a hospital for cancer care, clicking “cancer” will bring you to a list of the best and detailed statistics on each hospital.
The Bottom Line: While many factors determine how well you will do during or after a hospital stay, doing your homework in advance can maximize your chances for a successful outcome. Take advantage of the web and all of its resources to check up on a hospital before you sign in as a patient.