Finding the Right Hospital

If you (or a family member) need to find a good hospital “just in case,” use the “Hospital Homework” checklist to determine which hospital best suits your needs.
  1. What hospitals in your area are covered by your insurance? (If you choose one that is outside of the network, you may be responsible for a higher amount for your care.)
  2. If you should need emergency transport via ambulance, where will you most likely be taken? Do you have the option of being transported to another facility? If not, is the facility they take you to able to transport you via helicopter to the one of your choice? (Useful to know in cases of heart attacks or other critical situations)?
  3. If you already have one or more medical care providers (a family doctor plus a specialist or two), where do they have hospital privileges? (If you are also selecting a new doctor, this is a key question to ask in your information-gathering stage.)
  4. For pre-existing health conditions (or if there is a strong likelihood of developing a major health problem such as cancer), what is the health facility’s ratings in those areas? (Start with Hospital Compare. Or check out this resource from U.S. News & World Report and the American Hospital Association.

Once you’ve developed a “top three” hospital list, call the hospitals and ask for a tour of their facilities. For specific potential or current health concerns (say, cancer), ask that the relevant departments (oncology, for example) be included. Also, check out the Emergency Department to get a sense of overall wait time and operations.

Questions to ask:

  1. Does the hospital follow Universal Protocols for patient identification?
  2. Has the hospital implemented any special procedures for dealing with infections such as MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus)? (Click on the link to learn more.)
  3. Is there a patient advocate or similar staff person for inpatients?
  4. Is there a patient safety officer who oversees the facility’s strategy for monitoring, investigating and reducing medical errors?
  5. What percentage of patients are geriatric? (Important if you or the family member is older.)
  6. Does the hospital have nurse practitioners on staff? If so, what floors?
  7. In the Critical Care, Intensive Care and surgical units, what percent of care is delivered by registered nurses (RNs)?
  8. What is the maximum ratio of RNs and License Practical Nurses (LPNs) to patients on medical, cardiac and surgical wards?

The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. These tips are from doctors, nurses and people who have shared their real life advice; always check with a doctor, pharmacist or other appropriate medical professional you trust before making any healthcare changes.

Updated 5/2009