How to Choose a Hospital

Choosing where to get healthcare services is an important decision. It can make a difference in the cost and outcome of your treatment, because every patient's health insurance is different and hospitals can offer expertise in different areas. Patients should consult with their primary care physician before seeking hospital care and also consider the following questions.

Does the hospital have experience with my condition?

Certain hospitals have more experience with specific conditions. Ask your doctor or the hospital for information on:

  • How often the procedure is done there
  • How often the doctor performs the procedure
  • What the outcomes have been for other patients who have had the treatment at that hospital

Does your specialist or surgeon have privileges at the hospital?

Doctors usually have certain hospitals in which they are allowed to practice; this is known as "privileges." You may want to choose a hospital where your doctor can treat you. If you choose to go to a hospital where your doctor does not have privileges, you may be under the care of another doctor.

Is the hospital accredited by national accreditation bodies like the The Joint Commission, DNV or the American Osteopathic Association?

Hospitals undergo a licensure process that requires them to meet certain standards for the delivery of patient care. In addition, hospitals can choose to be surveyed by accreditation organizations like the The Joint Commission to make sure they meet certain quality standards. The Joint Commission, for example, prepares a performance report on each hospital that it surveys. The report lists such items as:

  • Accreditation status, ranging from "Not Accredited," to the highest, "Accredited with Commendation"
  • Evaluation of the key performance measures
  • Areas needing improvement
  • Comparison with national results

How does the hospital's quality compare with others in my area?

Websites with quality information for hospitals can be a useful tool when making a healthcare decision, but they can vary greatly in the types and quality of data they feature, so they should not be the sole basis of a healthcare decision. In addition to Comparing Hospitals, other websites that have quality information include:

Does my health insurance cover care at the hospital?

If you are having a procedure done at a particular hospital, first ensure the hospital is "in the network" of your specific health insurance plan. Keep in mind that hospitals deal with hundreds of different insurance plans every day, so calling the hospital to ask if they "accept" your plan is often not a fool-proof way of finding out if your care will be paid for. It is always best to contact your insurance company's customer service line and ask them to confirm whether the hospital is in your network of covered healthcare providers.

I don't have insurance; does the hospital have a charity care or payment plan policy that will work for me?

Most hospital offer charity care policies and payment plan options to patients who do not have insurance or are worried about paying for a service or procedure.  In this situation, patients are urged to contact the hospitals in which they are considering treatment for more information.

Have you asked friends, family and colleagues about their experiences with local hospitals?

A patient's specific experience with a hospital may be different from the care others receive, but getting information about items such as the quality and comfort of patient rooms or waiting rooms, attitudes and friendliness of the hospital staff, quality of food from the cafeteria, and other convenience or comfort issues will be helpful.