Today’s New York Times (8/23/16) had an article written by Austin Frakt, which should be of interest to all of us with prostate cancer. The article, “Why It’s Crucial to Choose the Right Hospital appeared on page A3.
The entire article is best described by the first sentence, “There’s an exceeding simple way to get better health care: Choose a better hospital.”
The article dealt specifically with hospital death statistics over the last 20 years from heart attacks, but its conclusions should be the same for any serious illness including prostate cancer.
In a study performed by health economists from MIT, Harvard, Columbia and the University of Chicago it was discovered that people who were admitted into better hospitals had significantly better survival rates than those at lesser-rated hospitals.
Frakt commented that, “that’s a big improvement for driving a bit farther to a higher-quality hospital.”
He also reported that people at higher-rated hospitals had better survival rates for the other illnesses they evaluated, heart failure and pneumonia.
This study did not look at any cancers, so it is not possible to say with any level of certainty, that people with cancer will live longer being in a higher-rated hospital, but it certainly is not going to hurt to be in a better rated facility and it might extend your life.
This leads us to ask how do you know about a specific hospital’s rating and more importantly how do you know which are the better rated hospitals?
There are some ways that you can objectify this question and get reliable answers. Medicare has a web site called Hospital Compare (https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html) where you can see which hospitals have the higher mortality rates for heart attacks, heart failure, pneumonia and some surgical procedures. The site also evaluated readmission rates, a measure that can reflect the level of initial care. In addition the site also offers statistical analysis of additional data like patient satisfaction and complication rates experienced at hospitals.
Very telling and informative is the web site www.Hospitalinspections.org where you can see the listed deficiencies that a hospital has been cited about during formal inspections.
Some states like New York and California also have similar sites that evaluate hospitals located within their state.
Additional ways to access information about hospitals are from friends, families, your doctor’s clinical recommendations and social media. This information is subjective, but many studies have concluded that patient satisfaction often is aligned with the quality of clinical care received.
However, the real pitfall with this method of hospital evaluation is that a motivated hospital can manipulate patient satisfaction by improving non-clinical factors like larger and free TVs in patient rooms.
The bottom line is that it could save your life if you make sure that you skip over the lower rated hospitals and make the extra effort to go only to a higher rated hospital. Failing to take the little extra time to do research could actually cost you time alive.