It’s hard to imagine buying a car without first checking the quality ratings. You can visit any number of sites to find rankings on fuel efficiency, durability, comfort, and drivability. And you can rest assured that all new cars are rated for safety by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
But when you’re in the market for a quality healthcare provider, checking the rankings can be a bit trickier. Unlike standardized ratings for cars, there isn’t a single go-to source for guidelines and measures in healthcare quality.
Measures that do exist are usually designed for institutions, not consumers, and that can make them hard to understand. Also, they may not focus on things, like an attentive bedside manner, that matter most when choosing a doctor.
That’s unfortunate because quality in healthcare varies widely.
The case for quality healthcare
Choosing the wrong doctor could leave you feeling frustrated — or worse, dealing with inappropriate care. In fact, it’s estimated that as many as 15% of cases involve a missed or incorrect diagnosis. The right doctor can mean the difference between early treatment at the first signs of a stroke or being sent home with a suspected migraine.
It’s not just the “who,” but the “where” that matters, too; some hospitals simply do a better job than others. For example, we know hospitals that perform a lot of the same types of surgeries have better patient outcomes. On the other end of the spectrum, underperforming hospitals consistently have higher rates of staph infection and more frequent readmissions.
Search with confidence (it’s easy!)
So how do you avoid the pitfalls of subpar providers? Here are three easy search tips that will help save time and give you some peace of mind.
1. Look for “excellence.” Hospitals named as “centers of excellence” focus on a specific medical condition or type of surgery, like maternity care or hip replacement. Due to their specialized scope, centers of excellence usually have access to expertise and resources that aren’t available at a normal hospital. Facing knee surgery? Look into an orthopedic center of excellence for high-quality healthcare. Need a heart procedure? Find your nearest center of excellence for cardiac care.
2. Search in-network. Your health plan has hand-picked top-tier doctors. High-performance networks limit their selection of providers to those who have the best patient outcomes.
3. Read (and write!) reviews. User reviews have been a longtime go-to for ranking just about anything, from restaurants to hair salons, and healthcare’s no exception. Nearly 60% of patients say they do online research and read user reviews before choosing a doctor.
And don’t discount the feeling of assurance that comes with a word-of-mouth recommendation. You recognize quality healthcare when you experience it. If you have a favorite healthcare partner, spread the word!