When in need, most folks wouldn’t think twice about which hospital to visit – the local shop is often the go-to option. However, given the prevalence of hospital error, such as healthcare-associated infection, it is a good idea to consider what the best option really is. The risks of choosing poorly have been highlighted by the World Health Organization, which has recently cited statistics showing the average hospital visit to be more dangerous than the average airplane flight. The chance of suffering harm from a hospital error is roughly 1 in 10, and the chance of death in a hospital is 1 in 300. Contrast this with the chance of dying in a plane crash, which is 1 in 10 million. Further, the difference isn’t even very strongly pronounced between developed and developing countries. Out of every 100 hospital patients in any country, 7 in developed nations and 10 in developing nations will acquire at least one healthcare-associated infection.
Choosing a hospital carefully requires examining a number of criteria. However, the decision does not always have to be difficult. For most common ailments that require routine care, such as setting a bone or repairing a muscle tear, most any hospital will do. But this does not mean there are not conditions where choosing the correct hospital can make all the difference – some hospitals may be right for most ailments but wrong for yours.
This is not to say that there are death-trap hospitals out there; if there were, you can rest assured that their doors would be shut sooner rather than later. That said, who wants a hospital with little to no prior experience remedying their illness or injury? Or, perhaps worse, one that is less aware of the potential dangers involved in the treatments they will apply? While a recent study has found that rates of post-operational complications, such as infection, internal bleeding, or organ failure, vary little across the country, rates of death resulting from these complications do vary. Rates of complication-induced death were almost twice at some hospitals what they were at others – meaning that some hospitals know how to catch and respond to problems markedly better than others.
Here are a few red flags to look out for with any hospital you may potentially choose:
Low Patient Turnover
Hospitals who regularly get and treat patients like you are more likely to be prepared procedurally for unexpected complications. Hospitals keep records of patient volumes for the previous year, and you should be able to get them upon request. Do not be afraid to ask for rates of death and complication as well. Then, you can compare the numbers to those recommended by hospital oversight companies, such as The Leapfrog Group. If the hospital meets recommended figures, they are likely a good choice for your needs.
Studies have found that rates of complication and length of hospital stays more closely correlate to one’s surgeon rather than one’s choice of hospital, and even the busiest hospitals have surgeons who do not operate regularly. Ask your surgeon for his latest yearly numbers on operations similar to the one you will undergo as well as his rates of death and complication. The numbers themselves should tell you everything you’ll want to know, but, if the doctor is hesitant to give them over, it is probably a good idea to ask your doctor to recommend a different surgeon.
If your hospital has a high rate of readmission, it is likely that they are not adept at post-discharge care. Again, these numbers should be available from the hospital, and, if they are not, you may want to consider another hospital. Studies have found readmission rates to be fairly consistent across the country, so if the hospital you’re interested in is substantially worse than other options, it probably means that the other options are more advisable.
At the end of the day, your healthcare experience is ultimately in your own hands; it is up to you to be a careful consumer. Choosing to spend your money on healthcare is no different than choosing to spend it on anything else – if you’re not careful, you could make an unwise decision that will leave you in a worse position than that in which you started.
Fortunately, there is legal recourse if a doctor’s error has led to harm for you or a loved one. If you believe this to be the case, please feel free to contact an attorney at Levin & Perconti for a free consultation today.
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