Archive for Sunday, June 26, 2005

Web site provides useful information on hospital choices

June 26, 2005

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Q: When my brother had a heart attack, the doctors and nurses were kind to him and his care seemed to be good. But hospitals can be so different. One may give better care for some conditions than others would. How can we learn which hospital is the best choice?

A: Sometimes the unexpected happens and you must choose a hospital quickly; you don't have time to research your decision. But some hospitals may not meet your medical needs or accept your insurance. Your doctor may not practice at every hospital in your area.

Kansans may turn to Hospital Compare, a Web site that shows how well participating hospitals take care of their patients with certain conditions: heart attack, pneumonia and heart failure. These are the most common serious medical conditions for older people.

Through Hospital Compare, you can compare data on hospital quality in your community and anywhere in the country, free of charge. The site shows how well hospitals provide treatments usually given for common conditions. You can use this information when talking to your doctor or other health care professional about your hospital care or that of a loved one.

Learning about hospital quality

Quality care means you get the right medicine, treatment, or test for your condition, at the right time. Getting quality care means you may recover more quickly and avoid other medical problems. It's important to know that hospitals vary in the quality of care they provide.

For instance, for a patient suffering a heart attack, hospital staff should give aspirin within 24 hours of the patient's arrival at the hospital, unless taking aspirin could be harmful; give a beta-blocker within 24 hours of the patient's arrival; prescribe a beta-blocker when the patient leaves the hospital; and give an ACE inhibitor before the patient leaves the hospital. Hospital Compare will show how often various hospitals follow those guidelines.

You maybe able to use the information at Hospital Compare to choose a hospital when you need one. Talk to your doctor and health care providers, as well as friends and family, about:

¢ Hospital quality. Some hospitals have more experience or better results treating certain conditions. Find out which hospital provides the best care for the condition you are concerned about. If your doctor shows a strong preference for a certain hospital, ask why.

¢ Their experiences with the hospital.

¢ The information you find on Hospital Compare. Your health care provider may be able to answer any questions or concerns you have.

These questions may help you think about your hospital's quality:

¢ How does the hospital compare with others in my area?

¢ Can my doctor treat patients at this hospital?

¢ Does the hospital meet national quality standards?

¢ Does this hospital treat a lot of people with my health problem?

¢ How often is the procedure I need performed at this hospital?

Getting started with Hospital Compare

Take a few minutes now to prepare for a health emergency. Talk to your doctor and use the information on Hospital Compare to learn all you can about quality of care at hospitals in your area - before an emergency arises. Getting information about the quality of local hospitals is easy.

Go to www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov or www.medicare.gov (click on "Compare Hospitals in Your Area").

You will see four tabs: Search, About, Data Details, and Resources.

With the Search tab highlighted, follow the step-by-step instructions to find specific information about hospitals in your area.

If you do not have Internet access, you can call (800) 633-4227 or TTY/TDD (877) 486-2048 for the same information about hospital quality.

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