Web site gives patients a new tool to pick hospitals

By Carrie Johnson Weimar • Published: August 11th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Most of us would never dream of picking a new car or an appliance without conducting research and consulting a guidebook. But where do we turn when we need to select a hospital?

The U-S Department of Health and Human Services is trying to take the guesswork out of this important choice. It’s launched a nationwide campaign highlighting information available on the Internet on how patients rate hospitals across the country.

The one-point-nine-million-dollar campaign includes newspaper advertisements in all fifty states that list information on two quality measurements for specific hospitals.

The measurements are the percentage of patients who were given an antibiotic before surgery, which can reduce the rate of infection, and the percentage who said they received help when requested.

The department also has an Internet site, called Hospital Compare, which shows the results of a patient attentiveness survey. The survey asks specific questions, including whether doctors and nurses explained things clearly, listened attentively and treated the patient with respect. Patients are also asked whether they would recommend the hospital to family and friends.

Health and Human Services officials say their goal is to encourage patients to go to high-quality hospitals… and to encourage other hospitals to improve.

The site, www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov, also features a checklist that patients can use when selecting a hospital and a patient’s bill of rights.

So before you begin trolling the Yellow Pages or consulting friends, do a little research before making such an important decision. Your life just may depend on it.