You research the pros and cons and shop around before you buy a car-so why 1 not compare local hospitals in case you, or someone close to you, becomes ill or has an accident? The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now reports hospital error rates on its Web site. The information is right there at, making it easy to see how the various medical centers in your area stack up against each other.

The above list shows that it's a good idea to track hospital error rates. E. Wesley Ely, MD, MPH, a professor and specialist in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center agrees-but, he adds, it's something that needs to be done very carefully for the benefit of both patients and the hospitals themselves.

For example: It's reasonable and helpful to hold hospitals responsible for mistakes such as transfusing the wrong blood type or leaving a foreign object in a patient during a surgical procedure—but it's not helpful to automatically blame hospitals when patients develop delirium after surgery, as the CMS originally proposed, because delirium is not always preventable. Fortunately, the CMS reversed its position on this condition, says Dr. Ely.

What You Need To Know Before You Go

To increase your odds of a safe and successful hospital stay, become an educated consumer…

  • Check hospital ratings. Visit CMS's Web site and read about hospital errors. At www., you can learn how satisfied other people were with their hospital closely hospitals followed best practices of many people died within 30 days of hospitalization for a heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia.. and 30-day readmission rates for these conditions.
  • Don't pay for their mistakes. Medicare does not pay for treatment of conditions that result from hospitals mistakes, and you don't have to either. If you develop any of the eight "Hospital Acquired Conditions" (as defined by CMS-visit and search "hospital-acquired condition"), you can't be charged for the resulting necessary treatment, according to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.
  • Work with caregivers as a team. For best results, Dr. Ely urges families to communicate closely with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals. Provide caregivers with a complete list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements that the patient takes. Ask questions about the risks and potential benefits of treatment options, and speak up about any other concerns, such as a patient being sedated too deeply or for too many days. As well-meaning as most healthcare professionals are, the demands of their jobs mean that a patient's quality of care isn't necessarily automatic.

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