Choosing the best hospital for you is an important decision, but it can be difficult. Sometimes you simply go to the hospital closest to you, the one that specializes in your medical condition, the one that accepts your insurance, or the one your doctor recommends. Other times, in an emergency, you are unable to choose.
A hospital admission, whether it results from an accident or a health issue, disrupts your life. You may be frightened or feel powerless. Making an informed decision about your hospital will help you deal with those emotions. You should be able to put your trust in the hospital and your medical professionals to provide you with appropriate, effective care.
According to the American Hospital Association’s 2018 statistics, admissions to all U.S. registered hospitals totaled 35,158,934. All hospitals have different strengths and weaknesses. Some may have more experience in caring for patients with certain medical conditions. So, if you have an option, you want to make the best choice.
Gathering Information About Hospitals
Start by learning about your medical condition and what care you need. If you wish to stay in a particular geographic area, what are your hospital choices? Always talk with your doctors or other trusted health care providers. Don’t hesitate to ask questions. You should ask which hospitals they recommend for your medical condition. Ask questions about hospital staffing, infection prevention, and medication safety. How well do these hospitals oversee and improve their quality of care? If you have a Medicare health plan, does the hospital participate in your Medicare plan or other insurance? Do you need a surgeon or specialist? Who will be responsible for your overall care during your hospital stay? What kind of care will you need after leaving the hospital?
In addition to talking with medical professionals, you can do your own research online. Hospital Compare is a website which provides information about the care provided at thousands of Medicare-certified hospitals. You can find hospitals in your area as well as across the country and learn about the quality of their care. You can compare hospitals based on a variety of factors, including how well hospital staff communicates with patients and how well they manage their patients’ pain. How does each hospital use outpatient medical imaging tests, like CT scans and MRIs? How often did hospitals give recommended treatments for conditions such as heart attack, pneumonia, or surgery? What about a hospital’s rates of readmission, complications, and mortality rates compared with the national rate? Hospitals are rated from one to five stars. Similar to hotel ratings, hospitals with five-star ratings have above average quality, and those with one star have below average quality. A hospital rating is rated based on the following categories:
- General information
- Survey of patients’ experiences
- Timely and effective care
- Complications & deaths
- Unplanned hospital visits
- Use of medical imaging
- Payment and value of care
The best way to learn how to use Hospital Compare is to give it a try. For example, if you want to receive your care at a hospital in the Charleston area, simply go to the website and enter your preferred location or the name of a hospital. You can choose to view hospitals within a given range, from one to 200 miles of your location.
If you are searching for a hospital within 25 miles of Charleston, or Mount Pleasant, three received five-star ratings—Roper Hospital, Bon Secours – St. Francis Xavier Hospital, and Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital.
You may wish to look at how each hospital measured up in each of the categories, or you may wish to focus on one. Perhaps you are interested in the Survey of Patient Experiences. The HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) is a nationwide survey. It asks patients a series of questions about their experiences during a recent hospital stay. If you look at the Survey of Patient Experiences for a particular hospital, you will see survey results based on ten important hospital quality topics, such as an overall rating of the hospital, staff communication issues, and whether patients would recommend this hospital to others.
Perhaps you want to focus on a particular hospital. Even then, it is important to look closely at their ratings in individual categories. For each category, you can see how the hospital compares to average ratings in South Carolina and nationally. You may find that their ratings are satisfactory for the type of care you need, or you may choose to widen your search.
Take All Your Information Into Account
In an emergency, you should go to the nearest hospital. However, if you can plan ahead, systems such as Hospital Compare are a good starting point for comparing hospitals. You can obtain valuable information on many aspects of quality. But the rating systems are only a guideline and only one part of your decision-making process. Hospitals and ratings discussed here are not necessarily intended as recommendations, or as a criticism of any facility. Choosing a hospital with a high rating does not rule out the possibility of mistakes.
Hospitals are supposed to provide a safe environment for patients to receive medical care. When you go to a hospital, you expect to heal and recover, but what happens if your hospital experience is unsafe and you are injured as a result?
Falls are a common injury in hospitals, for instance. There are approximately a million patient falls each year or three to five falls per 1,000 bed days.
Premises liability is the legal responsibility of a property owner to protect others from harm by removing, or not creating, any potentially hazardous conditions on the property. If the hazardous condition cannot be removed immediately, the hazard must be clearly marked, using warning signs or caution tape to mark off the dangerous area. Because of the vulnerable condition of hospital patients, hospitals, and similar facilities must often take greater care than normal to provide a safe environment.
If you are injured by a hazardous condition while staying in a hospital, you may be entitled to financial compensation under South Carolina law.
Another common hospital injury, medical malpractice, is “any act or omission by a physician during treatment of a patient that deviates from accepted norms of practice in the medical community and causes an injury to the patient.” When someone is injured in the course of receiving medical treatment or care, he or she may be able to hold the provider liable for that injury.
What Can Your Attorney Do for You?
There are time limits for filing personal injury cases. Therefore, if you or a loved one has been injured while in a hospital, it is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney without delay. Your attorney can advise you of your legal options, protect your rights, and obtain the compensation you deserve.