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, says the American Hospital Association.

The following information 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, like cancer or heart disease, you may need a hospital that is dedicated to that condition.

  • Teaching hospitals. In addition to treating patients, teaching hospitals also train health care providers. They are connected to medical schools, so 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 support. Responsibility for the hospital is with its board of trustees. They are generally selected from the community’s business and professional people. For-profit hospitals are commercial businesses owned by corporations or individuals.

Questions to ask

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

  • Start by talking to your health care provider about the different hospitals where he or she practices. Your health care provider 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 portion of the total cost.

  • Is your health care provider connected to the hospital? The health care provider who’s treating you must be connected to the hospital you choose.

  • Does the hospital offer services that meet your particular health needs? For example, if you’re pregnant, does the hospital 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 3 patients to 6 patients.

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

  • Does a nationally recognized accrediting body, like the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, approve the hospital?

Discuss your findings with the surgeon or health care provider who’s giving you your treatment.


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