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Choosing a Hospital

You don't have time to choose a hospital if you have a health emergency. But if you’re facing surgery or treatment for a particular health condition, taking time to find a hospital that meets your needs is well worth the effort, according to the American Hospital Association.

The following information and strategies can help you understand and research hospitals in your community.

Hospital types

Many communities have several kinds of hospitals:

  • General and community hospitals. Most of these hospitals can treat a full range of common medical conditions.

  • Specialized hospitals. If you have a serious medical problem, such as cancer or heart disease, you may need a hospital devoted to that condition.

  • Teaching hospitals. In addition to treating patients, teaching hospitals also train physicians and other health care providers. Because they’re affiliated with medical schools, these hospitals have access to highly skilled specialists familiar with up-to-the-minute medical technology.

  • For-profit and nonprofit hospitals. Nonprofit community hospitals operate under religious or other voluntary auspices. Responsibility for the hospital rests with its board of trustees, generally selected from the community’s business and professional people. For-profit hospitals are commercial establishments owned by corporations or individuals.

Questions to ask

Use the following list of questions to determine which of the hospitals in your community best fits your needs:

  • Start by talking to your doctor about the different hospitals where he or she practices. Your doctor can help you decide on the hospital that's best for you.

  • Is the hospital included in your health insurance coverage? If not, you could pay a higher deductible or percentage of the total cost.

  • Is your doctor affiliated with the hospital? The doctor who’s treating you must be affiliated with the hospital you choose.

  • Does the hospital offer services that meet your particular health needs? For example, if you’re pregnant, does the facility have a childbirth center?

  • Does the hospital’s staff have experience with the type of procedure you need? How much?

  • What arrangements does the hospital have with other facilities to provide services it doesn’t offer?

  • How many nurses are there for each patient? One nurse can usually care for three to six patients.

  • Will the hospital draw up a discharge plan for you before you leave the hospital?

  • Is the hospital accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting body, such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations?

Discuss your findings with the surgeon or doctor who’s providing your treatment.