Family physician, author, blogger, speaker, physician leader.

Getting the Best Hospital Care – Beyond the Hype Over Hospital Rankings

The New York Times recently published an article titled, “The Hype Over Hospital Rankings”. It is that time of year when hospitals tout their US News and World report rankings and crank out their marketing programs. Perhaps this is even important with health care reform, decreasing reimbursement, and a push towards a more consumer driven market. Hospitals are jockeying for position.

“Nearly every hospital has a banner out front saying they’re a ‘top hospital’ for something in some rating system,” said Dr. Nicholas Osborne, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan. “Those ratings have become more important for hospital marketing than for actually helping patients find the best care.””

So, how do you find the best care? Especially in health care when there is information asymmetry?

Here is an excerpt from my book – The Thrifty Patient – Vital Insider Tips For Saving Money and Staying Healthy.

No hype. No gimmick. Just the facts.

Getting the Best Hospital Care

Going to a hospital can be a scary and anxiety-provoking experience. After all, except for delivering a baby, is there any other timleapfrog_logoe that visiting a hospital is a good thing? While doctors, nurses, and other staff work hard and are dedicated to getting you better sooner, we know that hospitals are very complex organizations. The chance for error is real. Many people are involved in a patient’s care. Often multiple interventions, such as testing, monitoring, and dispensing of medications, are occurring on a regular basis. A hospital can be very confusing, especially if you don’t feel well.

To get the best hospital care, bring a family member with you. Learn the names of the doctors and nurses responsible for your care. Don’t be shy about asking people entering your room who they are and what their role is in caring for you. A January 2010 article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings found that of the over two hundred hospitalized patients interviewed, only 32 percent and 60 percent were able to identify their doctor and nurse, respectively. Also, 38 percent of patients did not know what tests were planned, and 44 percent were not clear on how long the hospitalization would be. The latter was particularly important, as patients often expected to be discharged sooner than they actually were. Might you be frustrated if you left the hospital a couple days later than you had anticipated?

Avoid frustration and feeling powerless. Ask your nurse and doctor what they believe the problem to be, what tests and treatments you will be doing, and when they might send you home. If you don’t ask, you won’t know, and you won’t feel in control.

Finally, find out which hospital is best at avoiding medical errors by accessing the report cards from the Leapfrog group, which was founded by large employers to evaluate the care their employees receive from hospitals. In California, similar information is accessible at www.calhospitalcompare.org.

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