Hospitals, despite best intentions, are not all equally created; some can fall short in important areas of patient care quality. So in your plan for health, you must be an active member of your healthcare team. Researching quality grades for your hospital before you check in is a critical part of that.
Your research should come from objective, reliable sources. The best are the U.S. government’s “Hospital Compare”, and “Quality Check” from The Joint Commission (TJC). These websites have what you’ll need to evaluate four crucial indicators of hospital patient care quality.
1. Patient Surveys
Check what other people said about their hospital stay. Talking with friends and family is good, but actual evaluations from patients is best. Communications to the patient, controlling pain , explanations of medications, cleanliness, and instructions given at discharge are vital measures to track.
2. Timely, Effective Care
Heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia, and surgery are most challenging for a hospital, and how they perform in these areas is a good indicator of overall hospital quality of care. Look closely at grades you see here, especially if you fall into one of these patient groups.
3. Complications, Readmissions, Deaths
This information includes occurrences of significant health problems. It’s vitally important for you to know how a hospital ranks in these areas because these occur after a patient enters the hospital. Occasional bad outcomes are unavoidable at any hospital, but a fully engaged healthcare team, which includes the patient, can help prevent most incidents.
A special note here: Be certain to evaluate how many patient falls have occurred at your hospital. Falls are nearly always avoidable, and therefore should occur infrequently. If you find your hospital has more patient falls than the national average, it could be pointing to an overall low quality of care.
4. Medical Imaging
CT scans, nuclear medicine scans, and MRIs are valuable diagnostic tools, but historically have been widely overused. The negative impacts of these tests for you the patient can include radiation exposure, injections of contrast material and other drugs, and hospital bill increases. For your safety, it’s essential you ask the doctor why you need the test. The federal government tracks the appropriate use of these tests and improvements at many hospitals have resulted.
Finally, the “Guide to Choosing a Hospital” is a necessary read, and please watch the great video on hospital safety on this page.
Remember, the hospital and doctors work for you, so ask questions, stay engaged, and be an active member of your healthcare team.