Choose A Hospital

Depending on where you live and the medical services you’re seeking, you’ll probably have a choice of hospitals (within your network area) from which to choose. The challenge lies in deciding which hospital best meets the needs, preferences and other criteria that are most important to you. Of course, you won’t always have the time or opportunity to choose between hospitals. However, when you are able to plan for your hospitalization, a number of considerations will likely factor into your decision. These include:

  • Whether the hospital is an in-network facility where you can benefit from negotiated discounts and lower out-of-pocket expenses,
  • The hospital’s location and reputation,
  • Your familiarity with and knowledge of its doctors, staff and services,
  • Recommendations from your doctor and others,
  • The quality of any previous experiences that you, your family and your friends may have had there, and
  • How it rates with other hospitals when it comes to results achieved from the specific treatment or procedure you are considering.

Look Beyond the Reputation

Keep in mind that different hospitals are better at different things. You may be familiar with the overall reputation of the hospitals in your area. And many are known for being especially strong in one area—such as cardiac care, trauma or cancer treatment. It’s important to note that just because a hospital has an excellent reputation for a certain procedure doesn’t make it the best choice for all procedures. Looking at hospital quality for your specific procedure or condition, rather than the hospital’s general reputation, can give you more important information.

Ask About Costs

Cost is also a consideration. It’s no secret that different hospitals frequently charge very different rates—even those that serve the same geographic area. However, these differences often have more to do with the hospital’s business approach than with its quality of care. Don’t assume that if you pay more, you’ll receive better care. In fact, when it comes to hospital care, areas of specialization and the frequency with which a procedure is performed are better indicators of quality than cost.

Do Your Homework Online

How can you find out about a hospital’s experience with a procedure or its costs? You can start by looking at your health plan’s Web site, which may be able to help you:

  • Locate hospitals within a given geographic area,
  • Get general information about a hospital, including number of beds, available services and accreditation,
  • Get a hospital’s overall performance ratings, as measured by the number of patients treated and mortality and complication rates, and
  • Compare hospital performance ratings for specific medical services, as measured by complication rates, safe practices, cost and length of stay.

You can also ask your doctor, call the hospital’s information office, or check Web sites that provide this information, such as the ones listed below:

Web Site Sponsoring Organization Available Resources
www.jcaho.org Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health Care Organizations Accreditation reports on hospitals, long-term care facilities and health care networks.
www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus U.S. National Library of Medicine Directories of general and specialized hospitals and other facilities.