Female doctor talking with patient

Understanding Hospital Quality Reports

Finding the right hospital for you is a very personal decision and may be based on a combination of factors, including learning more about hospital quality and safety.

Every hospital is different, just as every region across the state is different. Hospitals focus on how to best meet the health care needs in their community, which means that quality and safety initiatives may be different from hospital to hospital.

Understanding hospital quality reports is one of several ways you can learn more about how Pennsylvania hospitals are working to improve care.

In addition, a growing number of government and private organizations are attempting to measure the quality and safety of hospitals and are issuing quality reports, or “report cards” on hospital quality and safety. These reports may be helpful in choosing a hospital, but the reports also may provide conflicting information and different ratings for the same hospital. 

Understanding how to use quality reports and report cards, along with the facts behind how the reports were developed, is important to finding the right hospital for you.

According to the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, there are three questions you should ask about any health care quality report or report card:   

  1. How Important is this Rating for What I Need to Have Done?—Decide whether the ratings you are looking at are related to the procedure you need done. You can give greater weight to ratings that are closely related to your specific disease or treatment. For example: A hospital may have been rated well for treating heart attack patients in an emergency department, but that does not mean the same hospital also is rated well for heart valve replacement. In addition, if you are having surgery and are concerned about preventing infections, ratings based on hospitals’ surgical-site infection rates would be more important than ratings about patient satisfaction with the hospital’s staff friendliness. 
  2. How is the Study Funded?—Some organizations require that hospitals or other providers pay a fee to receive a rating and be listed on the organization website. You can consider information to be more reliable and less likely to be biased if the organization producing the report has no financial or other interest in the report or ratings. 
  3. Where Does the Information Come From?—Data used in hospital ratings can come from many sources, including patient satisfaction surveys, surveys of hospital doctors and nurses, billing data used in collecting payments, or from review of a sample of medical charts. Data also can be collected or reported by employees of the hospital or by outside researchers. Give greater weight to ratings that do not include personal opinions and that are collected by objective researchers.   

Understanding hospital quality reports is one way to learn more about hospital quality. Other ways include: asking your doctor, asking your insurance company, and asking the hospital.

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