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Choosing the right doctor and hospital

The quality of the health care you receive depends on many things. The skill of your surgeon is a key factor. But there are many health care providers at a hospital that will be involved in your care. The work of all hospital staff affects your safety and the quality of your care.

Choosing the best hospital for surgery

There are many ways a hospital can improve the quality of care you receive. Things to look for include:

  • A floor or unit that does only the type of surgery you are having. For example, for hip replacement surgery, does the hospital have a floor or unit that is used only for joint replacement surgeries?
  • Operating rooms that are used only for your type of surgery.
  • Guidelines that ensure that all patients having your type of surgery get the kind of care they need.
  • Enough nurses to care for the number of patients.

Also, find out how many surgeries like yours have been done at the hospital. Patients often do better when having surgery at a hospital that does more of the type of procedure they are planning.

If you are having a surgery that involves newer techniques, find out how many of these procedures your hospital has already done.

Looking at quality measures

Hospitals need to report events called "quality measures." These reports list things that can affect patient care. Common quality measures include:

  • The number of patient injuries, such as falls
  • The number of patients who receive the wrong medicine or the wrong dosage of a medicine
  • The rate of complications, such as infections, blood clots, and pressure ulcers (bedsores)

Hospitals receive scores for their quality. These scores can give you an idea of how your hospital compares to other hospitals.

Check to see if your hospital is accredited by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve the quality and safety of health care.

State agencies, consumer, and other groups also rate hospital quality. Look for hospital ratings from the following:

  • State reports. Some states require hospitals to report certain information to them. Likewise, some states publish reports that compare hospitals within their states.
  • In some areas, nonprofit groups work with businesses, doctors, and hospitals to gather information about health care quality. Look for this information online.
  • The government gathers and reports information about hospitals that can be found at www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov.
  • Ask a representative with your health insurance company if your insurer rates health care programs at different hospitals.

Finding the right doctor

To get the best quality of care, you need to find a doctor that is right for your needs. Find out about your doctor's skills, knowledge, and quality of care.

  • Get recommendations from friends or your health care provider on doctors who perform the kind of surgery you need.
  • Check information sources on doctor ratings and quality such as websites, consumer groups, and other health care organizations.
  • Base your decision on sources you can trust.

Make sure your doctor is board certified.

  • "Board certified," means that a doctor has completed a training program in a specialty.
  • Doctors receive 5 years (sometimes more) of extra training in their specialty after they finish medical school.
  • To become board certified, doctors must pass an exam (called a "board") that tests their knowledge, skills, and experience in their specialty.

Many surgeries are very technical. Look at your doctor's experience with the surgery you are having.

  • Talk to your surgeon about his or her past experience with this type of surgery and the number performed.
  • Make sure your surgeon has received special training in any newer procedures that you plan to have.
  • Make sure your surgeon has credentials at the hospital where you are having surgery. This means that the hospital has made sure the surgeon is trained and has the experience needed to perform the surgery.
  • Ask your surgeon what kinds of complications other patients have had with this type of surgery.

References

NCQA, Consumers page. National Committee for Quality Assurance Web site. http://www.ncqa.org/Consumers.aspx. Accessed July 7, 2014.

Accreditation/Certification Fact Sheets. The Joint Commission Web site. http://www.jointcommission.org/about_us/accreditation_fact_sheets.aspx. Accessed July 7, 2014.

Update Date: 10/3/2013

Updated by: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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