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How to separate the good hospitals from the bad

The process of choosing a hospital when seeking medical care can be haphazard. Many choose the nearest hospital. They may assume all hospitals are created equal, or they may just not know how to tell a good facility from a bad one. There has been an increase in the information prospective patients can find when it comes to hospital quality. More information is not better information, however, if it does not help you choose the best hospital to treat your condition.

 

Grades and metrics

 

Several groups have taken up the challenge to assign grades, scores or other metrics to hospitals to distinguish one from the next. Unfortunately, these rating systems suffer from a number of problems. A study of the various ratings assigned to hospitals showed that there was little to no consistency from one to the next. A hospital could easily achieve top marks from one rating system and middling to bad scores from the next. It is not clear if the cause of this inconsistency is a lack of rigor or an emphasis on different metrics to determine a good hospital from a bad one. What is clear is that you can’t necessarily rely on a single grade to tell you whether the hospital you are considering is safe.

Where to turn

 

Another recent study pinpointed a metric that did correlate with better patient outcomes. Patient satisfaction scores turned out to be a comparatively reliable predictor of things like mortality rate and readmission rate. If the patients were satisfied with the treatment they received, it was more likely that the hospital was doing a better than average job of protecting patient safety. The metric isn’t perfect, but it’s a place to start for people choosing where to get a procedure done.

 

Patient safety

 

Hospitals and doctors should prioritize patient safety in every decision they make. Sadly, medical mistakes are common and patients are often made to suffer due to outdated or unsafe policies used by health care facilities. Patients and their loved ones need to be vigilant to protect themselves and hold negligent facilities responsible for their misdeeds.

 

Source: The New York Times, “Which Metrics on Hospital Quality Should Patients Pay Attention To," by Austin Frakt, 24 June 207

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