Chosing the Right Hospital
If you live in a community large enough to have more than one hospital, choose your hospital as carefully as you choose your doctor. There is a huge difference in the level of care among hospitals. Even if you live in a small community, it may be worth the inconvenience to drive to a nearby city with a better equipped and staffed medical center.
Doctors can only work at hospitals where they have privileges, so if you are shopping for a new doctor, one of the important questions to ask is, “At what hospital does he or she practice?” Also ask at what other hospitals the doctor has privileges. Then find out everything you can about those hospitals.
Every environment (home, business, school, church) has its own culture which sets the atmosphere—and to some extent the code of conduct—expected and accepted there. As a patient, this means that some places are pleasant to be and some are not so pleasant. How you are treated and interacted with in the hospital will have a lot to do with the attitudes and dispositions of the staff. The better facilities do not tolerate lazy and lax employees, grumbling and back-biting, ignoring patient needs, and other unprofessional behaviors. Of course you can almost find the one or two employees who are exceptions to the rules, but overall, management is responsible for setting the standards and work ethic that everyone is expected to abide by.
Happy employees are usually well educated and trained for their fields, paid at or above standard pay scales for their positions, and are able to function in a professional atmosphere where they are expected to treat each other and patients with respect. They are given the equipment and tools they need to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. This type of hospital is a very expensive business to operate—very, very expensive. The good news to you as a patient is that if you are in the majority of Americans insured through a standard PPO insurance policy, it doesn’t matter to you if their overhead is higher than the hospital two miles away.
Your PPO insurance carrier has set a standard fee for every procedure and expense. For example, they may pay $1200 for your particular procedure. As long as the hospital is in the PPO network and you properly precertify--it doesn’t matter if you go to the lower grade hospital that bills you $1500 or the better hospital that bills you $1900. Your insurance company will adjust the charges to their allowable $1200 rate, and that’s what you pay your percentage of. So you end up paying the same amount for either good care or poor care.
It’s sad to say, but one of the most effective ways to get a quick feel of a hospital is to personally observe the clientele at the facility. When you go through the waiting room for outpatient tests, do you see a good cross-range of patients, are or most of their customers low income and/or minority patients? For example, my neighborhood has a fancy looking new hospital nearby, so I know the equipment is new and the building is pretty. I thought it would be a good place to seek medical care, and it certainly was convenient. But I quickly found out from personal experience that the majority of their clientele was minority and low income, and that had a great impact on the level of doctors, nurses, and other staff members employed there. I waited for hours in a cramped waiting room for a simple test. They were understaffed and the employees had bad attitudes about their work. This was not an isolated experience—I had several tests done at different times. I don’t mean to offend anyone, but it is a sad fact in our society that minorities and low income people often don’t receive the level of care and attention that other social groups do. Money talks.
When I switched to a private hospital in the medical center, I was shocked at the difference. My doctor here was not only board certified—she WAS the board. She actually participates as a board examiner and decides who gets to be board certified. When I waited at the hospital for tests, I was made comfortable, offered something to drink, and was informed and apologized to for any delays that occurred. The difference between the two hospitals was mind-boggling, and even more shocking was that through my PPO, I didn’t pay any more than at the other hospital. Goodness gracious, I even ordered room service from a menu in my hospital room whenever I was hungry instead of getting the daily (not so) special off a meal cart.
So I encourage you to seek the best medical care available for you and your family. Ask around, make personal observations yourself, order a report on the hospital to check their history and record, then choose the best facility your PPO has to offer within their network. Especially when it is a serious medical condition where getting the best doctors, staff, and equipment can be a matter of life and death, make sure you are in the best hands possible. It’s worth the effort, and chances are it won’t cost you any more anyway.