Where does your hospital rate?

Originally posted 9-12-2010:
Typically when I am about to make a big purchase, I do a lot of research before making a final decision.  If I am looking at a new car, I like to compare between a few different models to see which one is safe, reliable, fuel-efficient, a good value, and fun to drive.  Camping and outdoor gear is something I don't mess around with - I'm looking for something that is lightweight and won't get ruined in the rain. My running shoes need to fit well, have good stability, and get me through the multiple miles that comes with marathon training.  I'm pretty sure I am not the only one that will do this sort of research when it comes time to make a big purchase.   Everyone wants to have their criteria met without breaking the bank.

But does anyone do this when it comes to where they go to see their healthcare provider?  Do you do the same sort of "shopping" if you know you have an upcoming operation or necessary hospital stay?  To be honest, I never have.  In the past I would look for the clinic or hospital that was closest to where I was at.  I essentially looked for convenience more than anything else.

I recently realized it is possible to "shop" for my healthcare using quality of care and patient experience as criteria. The US Department of Health & Human Services has a site called Hospital Compare to allow patients to compare hospitals in their area.  The site covers all sorts of quality of care criteria and includes a survey of patient experiences at the facility.  Do you want to know if your hospital is giving their patients the correct antibiotic at the correct time before a surgery?  You can find that out.  Other criteria to compare are whether or not patients experiencing chest pain are getting aspirin 24 hours of arrival or are getting an antibiotic within 6 hours if they have pneumonia.  There are benchmark comparisons with the national averages of mortality rates for specific conditions.  To top it off, the site shows the results of a survey of patient experiences.  Not only can patients now gauge the effectiveness of the care they will receive, they can also get a sense of the quality of care. And if anyone needs a second opinion, Consumer Reports is in the healthcare "shopping" game as well.  Their site requires a membership, but it provides another unbiased source of information to help choose the best hospital for the needed care.

I think this is a great resource for patients.  I realize not everyone has the chance to make a choice on where they go for their care.  In rural areas, patients may only be able to go to the nearest hospital.  And health insurance may dictate where a patient can go for their care.  For those lucky enough to have a choice, this provides a nice comparison to help decide where to get the safest healthcare.  Not only does it point to where to get safer care, but now hospitals will now have more accountability to provide the safest and highest quality care possible.  I would like to think this will lead to patients creating a demand for higher quality and safer care.

It is a nice feeling knowing that in the future I can go shopping for what could be a pretty important decision.