Reader's Digest - - Cover Story -

Don’t just pick the clos­est fa­cil­ity.

In an emer­gency, of course, you want to get to the near­est hos­pi­tal—fast. But if you’re schedul­ing a surgery or pro­ce­dure, se­lect­ing the right hos­pi­tal, med­i­cal cen­ter, or surgery cen­ter could save your life, even if it means pay­ing more to go out of network. A 2016 study in the jour­nal PLOS One found that pa­tients at the worst Amer­i­can hos­pi­tals were three times more likely to die dur­ing their stay (and 13 times more likely to have com­pli­ca­tions) than pa­tients with the same health prob­lem at the best hos­pi­tals. Three key ques­tions to ask:


How many times last year did the hos­pi­tal per­form the surgery you’re get­ting?

Mul­ti­ple stud­ies show that the more of­ten a hos­pi­tal does a pro­ce­dure, the bet­ter the out­come will be. You are sig­nif­i­cantly more likely to have com­pli­ca­tions—some­times fa­tal ones—in a fa­cil­ity that per­forms the surgery only once or twice a year, Dr. Pronovost says.


Does the ICU have crit­i­cal-care spe­cial­ists?

Called in­ten­sivists, these spe­cial­ists are ex­perts on car­ing for the sick­est pa­tients. Stud­ies show they de­crease med­i­ca­tion er­rors by 22 to 70 per­cent and com­pli­ca­tions by 50 per­cent. More im­por­tant, your risk of death drops 30 per­cent if an in­ten­sivist man­ages your care.


Low num­bers in­di­cate that the hos­pi­tal has good safety and qual­ity man­age­ment, says Dr. Pronovost. Choose a hos­pi­tal that has fewer than two blood­stream in­fec­tions for ev­ery 1,000 days some­one in the hos­pi­tal has a catheter.

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