How Do I Choose a Hospital?

Sometimes, choosing a hospital is as simple as picking the one closest to you, the one where your doctor works or the one that accepts your insurance. It's important to remember that not all hospitals are created equal-- they vary in quality and have different strengths and weaknesses. So if you have an option of where to go for care, how do you make the best choice?

Hospital Ratings Websites

Hospitals are rated by a variety of government, regulatory and consumer groups and are judged based on many factors including patient survey results, how well they treat certain conditions, and the hospitals’ use of certain tests and technologies. The problem is that many of these report cards have limited information and may not address your problem or concern. . Even so, these report cards and ratings can give you some hints about what a hospital does best and where it might be lacking. For a more in-depth explanation on how to use hospital ratings, read Hospital Report Cards: Grading Facilities Near You.

Today, there are more and more hospital rating sites.

Organizations like the Informed Patient Institute (IPI), an independent nonprofit organization that provides credible online information about health care quality and patient safety for consumers, rates the usefulness of online doctor, hospital, and nursing home report cards. IPI doesn’t rate individual health facilities or practitioners — but they tell you who does.

We’ve also reviewed many of them and suggest the following:

  • Hospital Compare -A service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which allows you to search for Medicare-certified hospitals in your area.
  • Quality Check® -Locates Joint Commission accredited health care organizations. Searchable by city, state, organization name or zip code.
  • The Leapfrog Group Hospital Ratings- Offers quality and safety ratings by measuring hospitals' performance in areas such as patient safety, technology, high risk procedures and intensive care, rather than specific procedures or diseases.
  • America's Best Hospitals- Compiled by U.S. News & World Report – this site ranks hospitals by specialties, looking at factors like death rates, patient safety and hospital reputation.
  • Health Grades, Inc. -Offers information on over 5,000 hospital facilities rated on 28 common medical conditions or procedures.
  • American Cancer Society- Offers resources to those with cancer to help them decide where to receive care.
  • Consumers' Checkbook Guide to Hospitals- Requires payment. This guide from a popular non-profit consumer organization can be purchased for $22.
  • Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a “Guide to Choosing a Hospital” for those with Medicare or another form of insurance.

Should I Be Concerned About Hospital Safety?

Patient safety is of utmost importance when considering a hospital’s reputation. Government and nonprofit organizations have developed tools to help patients protect themselves when receiving care in a hospital. Consider the following resources when considering hospital safety:

Resources reviewed June 2013

Finding a New Doctor
Advice on what to look for in a new doctor, how to locate one (whether or not you have insurance), and links to trusted physician review websites.
How to Choose a Hospital
Not all hospitals are created equal. Here you’ll find popular ratings websites to help you compare before you go and important information about patient safety.
Deciding When to Seek Care
Not sure if you need a doctor? Here’s advice about alternatives, including urgent care and retail clinics and information about yearly checkups.


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