Choosing a Hospital: Getting Information
How to do a background check
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO)
The JCAHO is a non-profit organization that evaluates and improves hospital performance. JCAHO accredits about 5,000 hospitals and 10,000 other healthcare organizations such as home care and mental health providers. On the basis of their evaluation they issue a numerical score and either a pass or fail of accreditation. Hospitals that have significant problems or deficiencies are issued recommendations for improvement.
JCAHO offers copies of the performance reports for all hospitals that it surveys. You can order up to 10 hospital reports free of charge. This allows you to compare the performance of several different hospitals. This information is sometimes hard to read but almost always revealing.
These documents are published reports of the results of the treatment given by a hospital, clinic, or health plan. Although hard to read at times, they are useful and are becoming more so as the quality and scope of available information increases. Call your insurer, health maintenance organization, or hospital to obtain published results of their treatment. Only a few diagnoses lend themselves to this sort of analysis; however, the information is becoming increasingly available. Federal, state, and local governments also collect and publish information about hospital performance.
Hospital service and performance vary. For routine medical care it may not matter much which hospital you use. For complicated problems—such as a high-risk pregnancy or delivering a baby with special needs—it may matter a great deal. Your physician’s care is only one part of your total hospital experience. Your satisfaction will also depend on the skill and compassion of the hospital employees that care for you during your hospital stay.
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