how access to certain information can prove vital in selecting the right hospital

Whether we need surgery for a serious condition or a loved one requires treatment for some sort of medical emergency, there always seems to be a hospital that immediately springs to mind. For some people, this default choice of hospital is based on such factors as reputation or quality of past care, while for others it is based purely on geography or force of habit.

Whatever the reasons why a person ultimately chooses a certain hospital, they should always have access to statistics and other vital data that enables them to make an informed decision as to whether they want to be treated there.

Interestingly, Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and a renowned patient safety expert recently penned an informative article in which he asserts that prospective hospital patients should indeed have access to at least two very important sources of information that can help them decide where they would like to go for treatment.

Online Dashboards

Dr. Makary suggests that all U.S. hospitals should be required to provide prospective patients with access to so-called “online informational dashboards.” These easy to navigate web tools would provide vital statistics on rates of infection, readmission, surgical errors, and “never events” (i.e., medical mistakes that are never suppose to occur like leaving a foreign object inside a patient).

He also suggests that these online informational dashboards should list the annual volumes for particular surgeries and the associated patient satisfaction scores.

The rationale in providing such information, he argues, is that patients could easily avoid those hospitals with an unacceptable safety record/low patient satisfaction scores, while those hospitals faced with lower patient volumes would become painfully aware of what changes need to be implemented.

Safety Culture Scores

Dr. Makary also asserts that patients should have access to the safety culture scores of hospitals.

Safety culture scores are measured through the administration of an anonymous survey to physicians, nurses, technicians and other hospital employees. Specifically, they are designed to gauge such important factors as the overall level of teamwork among medical staff and the willingness/comfort of medical staff to speak up.

For example, in a hospital with a low safety culture score, a nurse may be afraid to speak up if a physician is going to operate on the wrong site or physicians may have poor patient outcomes due to a lack of coordinated care.

As previously stated, if a patient had access to such vital information, they would be far more likely to choose a hospital with a higher safety culture score while hospitals with lower safety culture scores would be motivated to make improvements.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “How to stop hospitals from killing us,” Marty Makary, Sept. 21, 2012

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