Evaluating quality health care is not quite as simple as one, two, three. However, there are some things you can do to make sure you're in the best hands when receiving medical care.
"Three important choices patients make can help determine the quality of their medical care," says Larry J. Goodman, MD, president and CEO of Rush University Medical Center. "Patients should take the time to seek the best primary care doctor, the most experienced specialist and a highly rated hospital for their health care needs," he says. "The higher the quality of the individuals and institutions they choose, the higher the quality of their overall care."
Learn more about evaluating quality care at www.rush.edu/quality.
- Primary care physician. When choosing a primary care physician, Goodman suggests asking family and friends for recommendations. Check to see if the doctor you are considering has experience dealing with your particular medical issues. Find out which hospital the doctor admits and refers to, and, perhaps most important, don’t be afraid to interview the doctor. "Go in for an initial appointment and make sure you're comfortable and can communicate well with the doctor," Goodman says. "Good communication is key to ensuring quality care."
- Specialists. Choose a specialist who has ample knowledge about your specific issue. You'll get higher quality care from a doctor who has had more experience taking care of patients with your condition. Ask the specialist for information on the latest medications and most current techniques and equipment. Remember, those who are the best in their field feel comfortable answering questions and providing you with all relevant information. "Good physicians will even encourage patients to get a second opinion," Goodman says.
- Hospitals. State and national Web sites offer information about the outcomes of hospital care, including things like how often patients got infections while in a particular hospital or whether they received all necessary treatments in that hospital. Goodman suggests looking for additional information from patient surveys, which can also be found on government and hospital Web sites. Patient surveys cover topics such as communication between staff and patients, pain control during a hospital stay, and overall patient satisfaction. All of these topics can be barometers of quality care.
Larry J. Goodman, MD, is president and CEO of Rush University Medical Center. He is also an infectious disease specialist who began his medical career at Rush.
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