Shop around for hospitals

June 22, 2009 12:38:11 PM PDT
When you choose a hospital, do you just go where your doctor suggests? What if going to that hospital puts you at extra risk for infection? Most of us put little thought into which hospital we pick, but we compare just about everything else we buy. We kick the tires of a car and compare prices, but not many people compare hospitals, where a mistake could mean the difference between life and death.

"We want to make going to the hospital as safe as going to the supermarket, and it really should be," said Dr. Shabot, Chief Medical Officer of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.

How do you make a good decision when it comes to choosing a hospital? See how they compare themselves.

The Memorial Hermann Healthcare System won the 2009 National Quality Healthcare Award. How did it win? They said they focused on eliminating medical mistakes, eliminating hospital acquired infections, improved survival rates, and improved outcomes for procedures.

"We measure every hospital-acquired infection and in many of our hospitals we have reduced those to zero," said Dr. Shabot. "Medication errors are so rare in our system with our barcoding that they're becoming almost non-existent."

How do you get this information? Go to www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov. You can compare hospitals there or you can go to the individual hospital websites and compare.

"We put all our data on a real-time basis on our website so you," said Dan Wolterman, CEO Memorial Hermann Healthcare System.

However, not every hospital gives you this information on its website.

"It would be great if there were a central data base for the Houston region where all hospitals were recording the same data the same way where patients could go in and compare hospitals on infections, their mortality, and outcomes on certain procedures," said Wolterman.

The pressure is on for hospitals to reveal this information. The government wants it and consumers should insist on getting it.

You can get more information if you're willing to pay. Healthgrades.com will provide hospital comparisons for $17.95 and information on doctors for $12.95 online.

Be sure to check with your insurance company's website, which may offer Healthgrades information for free.

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Christi Myers is ABC13's Healthcheck reporter

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