Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Choose a Hospital

For most citizens who do not work in the healthcare field, choosing a hospital can be quite difficult. Most have the ability to shop around and decide which hospital they want to go to for non-emergency situations. Despite that, according to the Atlantic, few patients are able or willing to invest the time and effort that would be required to find the best hospital. Even if they did, which healthcare parameters should they track? The factors used in decisions vary from patient to patient, and they can consider factors ranging from procedure success rates to hospital food. Even with research, some of these questions are not so straightforward.

In the case of a specific procedure, for example, patients may be tempted to pick the hospital with the 99 percent success rate over the hospital with the 95 percent success rate, due to a perceived better quality of care. The 95 percent hospital, however, might perform the procedure on the sickest patients in most dire need of the surgery, while the 99 percent hospital may only perform the procedure on relatively young and healthy patients, many of whom do not need it as much.

Patient satisfaction is another factor patients may look at when choosing a hospital. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the National Committee on Quality Assurance require participating organizations to publicly report their patient satisfaction data, so rates are easily obtained. This data can also be misleading though, as patients may rate a hospital experience poorly because they had to wait, when in all reality they received excellent care. Alternatively, patients may rate their hospital experience highly because there was ample parking, even though their care was sub-par. These factors may not be the best to determine where to undergo a procedure.

At the end of the day, the Atlantic suggests two key questions in choosing a hospital. First, do the people who work at the hospital, particularly nurses and physicians, seem generally happy and proud of the work they do?  Secondly, if health professionals were going to be hospitalized, which institution would they choose? These questions are good ones to keep in mind for both patients and hospital staff.

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