The hospital you choose for your treatment can have a big impact on your health. It can be an overwhelming decision that leaves you wondering how to choose the best hospital. Yes, there are websites with helpful information you can use to compare hospitals, and I suggest that you do so (see a list of helpful websites on this Zaggo resource webpage).
However, these websites don’t provide the complete picture because hospitals are not always fully transparent in their reporting of issues like errors and infections.
Why not get the scoop from insiders? Doctors are often more knowledgeable about what goes on behind closed doors. They talk to other doctors, read scientific journals, and attend conferences – all of which gives them an advantage when choosing a hospital.
Medscape asked doctors what criteria they use when choosing a hospital, and which hospitals they would choose for 9 conditions/procedures. 8,500 doctors responded and the results are worth noting.
What factors are important to doctors when choosing a hospital?
What do doctors consider when choosing a hospital? Here are the top 6 answers of the doctors who responded:
It’s no surprise doctors put a lot of emphasis on the reputation and respectability of a hospital’s doctors when choosing.
What surprised me was how low on the list rates of errors and infections are – perhaps doctors don’t like to think that they, or their colleagues, could make mistakes? Given that medical errors are the 3rd leading cause of death in the US, I personally would put these two considerations higher on my list!
How did doctors describe the factors they value?
Here is a sampling of their responses:
- “Reputation and word of mouth”
- “On the cutting edge of new treatments and technology”
- “Best outcomes, usually due to high number of cases seen in that hospital”
- “Emphasis on kindness instead of profit”
- “Good leadership; it improves quality of care”
What hospitals would doctors choose for specific conditions?
The Medscape survey asked doctors which hospitals they would choose for 9 specific conditions. Below find the responses for breast cancer, cardiac conditions and infectious disease.
For each category, the data indicates responses from all doctors surveyed, with separate data for responses from doctors who specialize in the given medical condition.
To see the choices for prostate cancer, lung cancer, stroke, interventional cardiac surgery, hip replacement and multiple sclerosis, visit the Medscape website (note you have to join, for free, to view this article).
It’s no surprise to see that the hospitals chosen by the doctors in this survey are large, well-known teaching hospitals. In an ideal world, everyone has access to one of these hospitals.
Unfortunately, barriers might prevent you from using one of these hospitals, including insurance coverage and other financial issues. In addition, these hospitals may be too far from your home.
That being said, if you, or a loved one, has a serious illness and time permits, it might be worth a trip to one of these locations for a second opinion on the diagnosis and treatment options. If you get an opinion at a distant hospital, it may be possible to receive treatments at a closer hospital.
The doctors’ choices:
Kate Welling says
It is surprising to know that people look for medically respected expertise when searching for a hospital. I agree with your statement talking about why doctors put so much of an emphasis on reputation. If I had to name what was important to me when picking a hospital, it would be the credibility of the hospital.
Thank you for your comment. I think many of us look to our doctors for recommendations regarding what doctors to see and what hospitals to use. But as you mention, a hospital’s ability to provide safe, high quality care is key!