"The Best Way To Choose the Right Hospital" by Allen Weiss, MD, CEO & President

Dr. ALlen Weiss, MD, MBA, FACP, FACR
(November 1, 2007) - It used to be that choosing a hospital was a lot like choosing a political candidate.

You read the ads, heard the commercials, and asked a friend or neighbor about what they would do. And then you made a choice, for better or worse.

Fortunately for healthcare consumers, those days are over.  Today, there is a new exciting method to research healthcare choices. It’s called the Internet.

Since the beginning of the 21st century, the Internet has led a revolution in securing healthcare information. According to the latest data, more than 75% of all patients use the Internet during a healthcare experience.  The most common subject sites visited on the web are medical sites. In fact, at our own NCH website, www. NCHMD.org, we receive more than 30,000 visitors every month.   

When it comes to healthcare, outcomes matter. We should all want to learn as much as we can about our own health issues, and those of our family members. After all, what could be more important than understanding your chances of success when you or someone you love is undergoing a medical treatment or obtaining information about a disease or prescription?
In recent years, there has been a tidal wave of information from a variety of sources made available to healthcare consumers.

One important example is the Medicare participation data, submitted to the government by each of the nation’s 5,000 hospitals.  This information includes objective measures on such elements as diagnosis, co-morbidities (other diseases present at the time of admission for a different ailment), complications, length of stay, and procedures performed.

Computers then transform this data into knowledge, which links patient outcomes to where they received treatment. Independent organizations that rate healthcare quality and safety have access to this information, which is used for comparison of care givers.

This objective knowledge forms the basis of hospital rankings.

As a result, a growing number of web sites now rank healthcare quality and cost.  These sites have rendered nearly obsolete the pre-Information Age methods that patients used to acquire information, such as the US News and World Report rankings, which were primarily based on reputation rather than fact.

Among the principal healthcare websites available to consumers are:

•    Governmental services - www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov
•    Joint Commission -  www.qualitycheck.org
•    HealthGrades - www.healthgrades.com
•    Thomson -  www.thomson.com  

While we’re proud that NCH has been ranked prominently by a number of these websites, we also must acknowledge that none of these technologies are perfect, and they don’t always agree with each other.

The real point is that an intelligent consumer will take the time and use the multiple resources available today to research his or her choices before making the critical decision of choosing the right hospital.

Dr. Allen Weiss is CEO & President of the NCH Healthcare System. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Rheumatology and Geriatrics, and was in private practice in Naples, Florida from 1977 - 2000. Dr. Weiss is active in a variety of professional organizations and boards, and has been published in numerous medical journals, including the American Journal of Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.