We are living in the age of consumer choice. Need a plumber? You can find ratings and referrals online. Want to buy a car? Check annual rankings. What do you do, though, when your doctor says you need heart surgery?
It’s important to learn as much as you can about the hospitals that offer the type of heart surgery you need, and about specialists among cardiac surgeons. Knowing what questions to ask and where to find the answers can help you make choices that will provide the best care for your needs.
To learn more, we talked with cardiac surgeon Faisal Bakaeen, MD.
A: Two decades ago it may have been difficult to find out much, if anything about health care providers. Today, though, it’s much easier to find public data and ratings on hospitals and doctors. Start your search for information and rankings with these sources:
Tip: U.S. News and World Report’s annual health-care ranking is another good starting point. It’s valuable because it considers a hospital’s reputation among physicians. Government sources like Hospital Compare, on the other hand, use raw data and don’t adjust for things like risk and patient complexity.
A: Not all hospitals take part in rankings like U.S. News, but you can still compare their internal data to others that are publicly reported. Many hospitals offer outcomes and performance data on their websites. If not, they should provide it if you ask for it.
To dig deeper on quality, look for these markers for cardiac programs:
Tip: It’s also helpful to know how much experience a hospital or physician has with the specific type of surgery you need. A surgeon who performs a surgery 250 times a year will have better skills than one who does it a dozen times annually. A hospital with a high volume of patients who undergo your specific procedure will have the facilities, equipment and team of experienced health care providers necessary to fully support you in treatment and recovery.
A: If your condition is complex, it’s a good idea to look into what large hospitals can offer. Consider these factors:
A: There is more to learn about hospital reputations in general, and you’ll also want to ask about specifics involving your condition. Here are a couple more questions to ask:
Finding information on a hospital is easier than ever, but it may take some research. Do your best to find out as much as you can in advance.
Learn whatever you can about the hospitals available to you, consider whether a specialist is best and then meet with the surgeon you choose about your options. These steps can all help you improve your chances of a good outcome and a speedy recovery.