When you are in need of medical care, picking a good hospital is one of the most important choices you can make. The reality is that not all hospitals deliver high quality care, and not every hospital is staffed with an equally talented set of health professionals who perform every procedure equally well. I would highly recommend reading our article “Does Your Community Have a Good Hospital? How to Tell” for some great tips on determining if your community’s hospital is good. Below are a few other questions you should ask when choosing a hospital:
Is the hospital JCAHO Accredited? In the US hospitals can earn accreditation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. JCAHO is an independent, non-profit organization that carries out quality assessments at 5,000 US hospitals and 6,000 US health care facilities. Hospitals do not require JCAHO accreditation to operate, however being accredited by JCAHO says very good things about the hospital.
Is the hospital a teaching hospital? A teaching hospital aims to treat patients, do research, and train physicians. They are typically affiliated with a medical school, which could benefit you as a patient as the hospital could have access to professors or renowned specialists or be treated with cutting edge programs or technologies. However, these cutting edge technologies could be very expensive and may be experimental, meaning they are not the best treatment options for you.
Is the hospital not-for-profit or for-profit? A study published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine in the year 2000 found that surgical complications and diagnostic delays were 2 to 4 times more likely to occur at for-profit hospitals than not-for-profits. Some research suggests that mortality rates are highest at for-profit hospitals.
What is the hospital’s experience with doing your procedure? Find out how many cases per year they treat. Patients generally do best at hospitals that emphasize or regularly treat their particular problem.
How many registered nurses (RNs) are on staff? What is the nurse-to-patient ratio? One nurse can effectively take care of 3-6 patients. In the ICU there needs to be one nurse for every 1-2 patients.
Is the hospital clean? Visit it and look around. Ask to see the waiting rooms and patient care rooms. Do they look comfortable? Would you want to recuperate in the patient rooms? How much privacy would you have in these rooms?
Are there doctors available in most specialties and sub-specialties? The more serious the illness or more complex the operation, the greater the need is for a full range of physicians who can treat unexpected problems that might arise.
Does a pharmacist participate in daily rounds? A recent study found that participation by a pharmacist reduces medication mistakes by two-thirds. Such involvement shows that the hospital is serious about preventing medical errors.
What percentage of the staff physicians are board certified? On average about 85 percent of all U.S. physicians at hospitals are board certified. This figure may be higher in large urban centers and lower in smaller rural communities. Look for a hospital with a higher number of board certified physicians.