Recently I spoke about my brother’s surgery. The hospital he was in was very nice, a private hospital. My sister-in-law had done all the legwork; checking out the doctor with the state board, researching the hospital, etc. It’s interesting because I wasn’t worried about the hospital’s mortality rate, I was interested in the hospital’s infection rate.
Lo and behold, yesterday on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” the topic was comparing hospitals so you can make better choices. The most important thing to consider is that during an emergency it’s about getting the fastest care, not researching to find which hospital ranks higher, the truth is if you do the research you’ll probably be dead before you get the care.
Dr. Donald Berwick, CEO, Institute for Healthcare Improvement and Dr. Robert M. Wachter, Chief of Medicine at UCSF Hospital discussed the tools available to the public when choosing hopsitals. They shared that Medicare has tracked mortality rates as related to heart failure, heart attacks and pneumonia. The information gathered looked at mortality rates for 30 days from the intial hospital stay.
The goals is for hospitals to become more tranparent. Knowing the ranking is not only a tool when you need to be hospitalized. It’s a tool that will help hospitals improve their levels of care, decrease mortality rates and in time we’ll learn more about their infection rates.
We have to remember that we’re healthcare consumers, not guinea pigs. We have certain rights as patients and one of the rights is to choose a hospital where our chances of survival are increased. Remember, not all doctors have privleges at all hospitals. You may have to choose between a doctor and a hospital, or before making the appointment, if you know the hospital you want to use, ask the doctor if they have privleges. This makes it easy on you from the start and you won’t have to come to the fork in the road and make those difficult decisions.
If you want to see where you hospital ranks go to http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. Part of the process of evaluation is to figure out how to improve healthcare. It asks the hospital to look at their level of reliability- do they do the right thing everytime?; teamwork amongst the hospital staff; and listening to the patient’s voice. Let’s face it, the hospital would go bankrupt if it didn’t have patients. In essence, we are the hospital’s employer; they should listen to us.
Hospital stays are stressful enough without having to worry about making it out alive. Knowing which hospitals have better track records empowers you to make good choices about your health. It provides you with reinforcement about being a partner in your own healthcare…isn’t that what you want?