Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hospital Tips: Information on safety

How safe is your hospital? How does it stack up against others when it comes to serious procedures, patient mortality and infection rates? Especially for elective procedures and surgeries, you generally have a choice between several hospitals. Making the best choice takes time and careful evaluation. Because this decision is such an important one, it should not be made lightly. Take your time and assemble as much information as you can.

Start by investigating web sites that compile independent ratings of hospitals. Do this by searching for “hospital ratings” at any of the many search engines available. Most rating systems are based on categories. These generally include cardiac, orthopedics, obstetrics, neurology, and surgery. The ratings are based on many factors, including mortality rates and complication rates. Be sure take into consideration the reason for your hospitalization when weighing these ratings. A facility that rates high overall, but gets lower ratings for cardiac problems would not be a good choice if you need cardiac bypass surgery.

Next, find out if the hospital is accredited. The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) surveys hospitals and other healthcare providers. JCAHO decides whether a hospital keeps or loses accreditation based on certain health and safety criteria. Accreditation is voluntary, but if the hospital you are considering is not accredited, it is important to find out why.

Also be sure to talk to your family, friends and physicians. Find out if anyone prefers one facility to another and why. Visit the hospital you are taking into consideration and look around. Try to stay as unobtrusive as possible so you can get a real idea of how the staff interacts with the patients and each other. How clean is the facility? Does the staff seem anxious and stressed, could there be a problem with understaffing? Does overcrowding seem to be a problem? Are patients in the hallways unattended? Take notes so you will be able to compare the results at your leisure. Before you leave the hospital, make a quick stop at their public relations department to get the rest of the information you will need.

The hospital itself is an excellent source for information. Ask what the hospital's mortality and complication rates are for common procedures. Compare these statistics with those from other hospitals. Other things you should ask are the number of nurses in relation to number of patients. One nurse can usually care for three to six patients, except in intensive care units where the proportion should be one registered nurse for every one or two patients. Another important question to ask is how does the hospital handle infection control. Since about 5% of all people who are hospitalized catch an unrelated illness during their stay, this should be a major concern for the facility. Ask if the hospital conducts satisfaction surveys and try to obtain a copy of the results. Some facilities will not release the survey results, but it is a good sign that they conduct the surveys.

Once you have made your decision make sure your family, friends and physician are aware of your choice. Post it in a visible location on the refrigerator. This is where any EMS personnel are trained to look for important medical information. These last few steps will ensure that all your hard work researching will be put to use when you may not be able to make your decisions known to others.

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