To find the best hospital for you—whether it's a small community hospital, a hospital in your rural area or a large teaching hospital—go for an accredited hospital listed on the Joint Commission's Quality Check website at JCAHO.org. Joint Commission accreditation is the Gold Seal of Approval for a hospital—and that's what you want. The Joint Commission also evaluates ambulatory clinics, home health agencies, home medical equipment companies, nursing homes, laboratories, behavioral healthcare facilities and more.
Know Your Hospital's Numbers
Practice makes perfect. Research has shown that for several common operations, hospitals that perform a specific number or more of that operation every year have better success rates. Your surgeon should be able to give you this info, as should the hospital's information line.
Have the Surgeon Draw a Picture
Surgery performed on the wrong limb? Or wrong person? Absurd! Unbelievable! Except it really does happen. You know that. You see it in the news more frequently than anyone would like. The Joint Commission requires the surgeon to literally mark the site of your surgery (for example, left elbow, right side of abdomen, wherever appropriate) before the operation. And the docs and nurses will triple-check your identity to make sure that you're the right patient before they even lift a scalpel.
Get Thee to a Hospital
How are you feeling? Fine? Never better? You need to find a hospital. The perfect time to scout for the best hospital is when you don't need one. Most people don't give it a thought until a paramedic is looking them in the eye and asking, "Do you have a preference of which hospital you want to go to?"
Insist on Being Scanned
In the hospital, have staff check your hospital ID bracelet before they give you any medication, take blood or wheel you off for a test. If your hospital uses bar code scanners on ID bracelets, insist they scan you every time.
Is your ER on the level?