How to Choose the Right Hospital for You or a Loved One

How to Choose the Right Hospital for You or a Loved One

A hospital stay can be a daunting experience. Trusting your life to an unfamiliar medical facility and its staff can be overwhelming. However, choosing the right hospital can have a significant impact on your health and well-being. So, how do you go about making this crucial decision?

The Importance of Hospital Choice

Studies have shown that the choice of hospital can greatly influence patient outcomes. A comprehensive study published in 2016 analyzed over 20 measures of medical outcomes for 22 million hospital admissions. The researchers found that patients at the worst US hospitals were more than twice as likely to die and over ten times more likely to experience medical complications compared to patients at the best hospitals.

Factors Affecting Patient Outcomes

Not all hospitals provide the same level of care. Several factors can influence patient outcomes, including:

  • Experience and training of doctors
  • Volume of cases for a specific condition
  • Culture of the hospital
  • Availability of modern medical equipment
  • Nurse staffing levels

Considering these factors can help you make an informed decision when choosing a hospital.

Tips for Choosing a Hospital

Before diving into the tips, it’s important to note that choosing the “right” hospital doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome. However, conducting proper research beforehand can significantly improve your chances.

1. Choose an Accredited Hospital

Look for hospitals that have received accreditation from an agency approved by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The Joint Commission, the oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare in the US, is a reliable source to check for hospitals that meet their quality care standards.

2. Consider Expertise and Experience

When possible, choose a hospital where doctors have experience treating your specific health condition. Hospitals often specialize in particular areas, so inquire about the number of patients with your condition treated at the hospital each year and their outcomes. Ask your doctor for recommendations and consider whether you need a specialty or teaching hospital.

3. Research Hospital Performance

Look for information on the quality, safety, and outcomes of hospitals in your area. While there are several websites that provide valuable insights, such as The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Grade, Money’s list of best hospitals, Kaiser Health News’ tool to find Medicare penalties, Medicare’s Care Compare, U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals report, and Fortune/IBM Watson Health Top Hospitals Program, it’s important to understand that there is no standardized methodology used by these sites. Use the information cautiously and consider multiple sources.

4. Don’t Overlook Patient Experience

A positive patient experience can lead to better quality care and improved outcomes. Choose a hospital that prioritizes patient experience, ensuring ease of appointments, access to health information, and good communication with healthcare providers. Look up top-rated hospitals for patient experience in your state for guidance.

5. Consider Insurance Coverage

To avoid unexpected bills, check with your insurance carrier to determine your coverage at potential hospitals. Ensure there are no exclusions or pre-approval requirements.

6. Location Matters

Consider the convenience of hospitals in your area, especially if you anticipate regular visits or overnight stays from loved ones. Having support during your hospital stay can be invaluable.

7. Special Considerations for Seniors

If you or a loved one is over 65, look for hospitals designated as “Age-Friendly Health Systems” by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). These hospitals prioritize evidence-based care for seniors and consider their desires and needs. Additionally, consider emergency departments with Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation (GEDA) from the American College of Emergency Physicians.

8. Research Potential Doctors

In addition to evaluating hospitals, research potential doctors. Ask specific questions about their training and experience with your condition and seek multiple opinions.

Conclusion

Choosing the right hospital is a crucial decision that can impact your health and well-being. Consider factors such as accreditation, expertise, hospital performance, patient experience, insurance coverage, location, and special considerations for seniors. Remember, while choosing a hospital doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome, conducting thorough research can help you make an informed choice.

FAQs

Q: How do I choose the right hospital?
A: To choose the right hospital, consider factors such as accreditation, expertise, hospital performance, patient experience, insurance coverage, location, and special considerations for seniors.

Q: What should I look for in a hospital?
A: Look for hospitals that have received accreditation from a trustworthy agency, specialize in your specific health condition, prioritize patient experience, have a good track record in terms of quality and safety, and consider your insurance coverage and convenience.

Q: Can choosing the right hospital improve patient outcomes?
A: Yes, studies have shown that patients at the best hospitals have better outcomes compared to patients at the worst hospitals.

Q: How can I research hospital performance?
A: Utilize resources such as The Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Grade, Money’s list of best hospitals, Kaiser Health News’ Medicare penalties tool, Medicare’s Care Compare, U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals report, and Fortune/IBM Watson Health Top Hospitals Program. However, consider that these sites may have different methodologies and use multiple sources of information.

Q: What should seniors consider when choosing a hospital?
A: Seniors should look for hospitals designated as “Age-Friendly Health Systems” by the IHI and emergency departments with GEDA accreditation. Additionally, conduct research on hospital programs and policies related to senior care.

Note: This article was last updated on 5/31/22.