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Health & Safety

Finding a Hospital

Hospital SignIn an emergency medical situation, it's important to be able to choose a hospital quickly. If you travel by ambulance, you'll most likely be taken to the nearest hospital that is available and ready to accept patients. However, in some cases, you may be given a choice of which hospital to go to.

When you move to a new area or are staying in an unfamiliar place temporarily, do some research on nearby hospitals so that you can pick a hospital if you need to. Browse the hospital's website to find out what services are offered, what accreditations are held, and information about awards and quality ratings. Check with neighbors and friends to find out what their experiences are.

For surgery, maternity care, other procedures, or specialty care that is scheduled to be done in a hospital, you'll have more time to prepare and to do research to pick a hospital that is the best option for your needs.

Some of the first things to find out are whether your health insurance accepts the hospital and whether the hospital offers the services that you need. If you have a long term relationship with a physician, find out what hospital he's affiliated with and ask for recommendations. Make sure the hospital is easy to travel to for follow up visits. The hospital should be accredited by a national agency that measures safety standards and quality of patient care.

When you need to find a hospital, try to visit first; look for cleanliness and helpful staff. The facility should also have success in treating your specific problem and offer social work and financial assistance if necessary. The Joint Commission and Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offer more tips for choosing a hospital.

Accreditation status is important when you need to pick a hospital. United States accrediting agencies include:

Joint Commission
Community Health Accreditation Program

Accreditation Commission for Health Care Inc. (ACHC)
Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation (HQAA)

The annual US News and World Report Best Hospitals ranks hospitals throughout the United States. Some hospitals that have made the list of top hospitals are:

California: Ronald Reagan UCLA
Minnesota: Mayo Clinic
Maryland: Johns Hopkins
Massachusetts: Massachusetts General
New York: New York Presbyterian University Hospital
Ohio: Cleveland Clinic
Pennsylvania: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
Tennessee: Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Washington: University of Washington Medical Center

You may also need to find a hospital when traveling in a foreign country. Before traveling, find out if your health insurance covers foreign treatment. If it doesn't, purchase travel insurance. Get a list of nearby hospitals that are covered by your insurance company, and check the Joint Commission International for foreign hospitals that are accredited for high quality patient care. Some accredited foreign hospitals include:

Austria: Landerskrankenhaus Villach
Costa Rica: Hospital Clinica Biblica
Czech Republic: Na Homolce Hospital
Denmark: Bispebjerg Hospital
Germany:  DRK Kliniken Berlin
Mexico:  Hospital San Jose Tec de Monterrey

When you receive a diagnosis or prepare for hospitalization, there are many resources online that provide information about medical symptoms, diagnosis and procedures, such as:

It's important to talk to your own doctor and health care about anything you read online. Discuss what you've learned, and remember that all cases are different.

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