You may have noticed over the past few years that hospitals have been competing for your business. Billboards are everywhere, letting you know about emergency room wait times, heart care programs, and different awards hospitals have won. Huge cranes are seen around the city, evidence of impressive new hospital wings (at least for services that increase hospital revenue).
In part, this indicates a competitive, open market. One could view healthcare as a consumer good or service like all the others we purchase each day. After all, if Henry’s Coffee Shop has better lighting and more comfortable seats, you may gather there with your friends instead of at Barbara’s Coffee Shop, no matter who won the “City’s Best Coffee” award.
When you are looking for quality in healthcare, things are more complicated–and the stakes are higher. A hospital may rank high overall in its clinical outcomes for hip replacement, for example, but what if you have met with Surgeon X instead of Surgeon Y in a particular orthopedic practice? And what if, unbeknownst to you, Surgeon X has a higher-than-average number of complications, despite the hospital’s overall positive rankings?
While no one can guarantee you successful treatment, here are some basic actions you should take to improve your odds:
1) Check the board of medical examiners in the states where a physician is licensed to practice. Look for actions taken against a physician’s license by his or her governing body. While it is unlikely you will find your potential physician on such a list, it makes sense to rule out the possibility.
2) Check with the physician you are interviewing to see if he or she is board certified. Board certification is a voluntary process, and it shows that a physician has demonstrated expertise in a medical specialty. If you forget to ask the physician about board certification when you meet with him or her, you can also click on this online tool to find that information.
3) Many patients are uncomfortable asking physicians questions like “How many times have you done this procedure?” “What has been your success rate in treating these kinds of problems?” or even “How do your patient outcomes compare to other partners in your practice?” These are important questions, however, and if your physician bristles at them–consider looking elsewhere.
4) Use an online hospital or nursing home compare tool, such as www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. While the information provided is general rather than specific, such tools can provide you a starting point for feeling comfortable with your choices.
If you need help finding quality healthcare providers, ConciergeCare is ready to use research skills, diplomatic interviewing techniques, and medical community connections to uncover the information you need–call us at (913) 553-6226.