Are you scheduled for back surgery or considering it? In addition to considering how to choose the right surgeon for your care, you should probably check out your hospital options too.

See How to Select a Spine Surgeon

doctor using tablet For choosing both a surgeon and a hospital, it's important to ask about a procedure's frequency in being done, typical outcome, and complication rates. See Insights on Choosing a Spine Surgeon

The advice that patients should "shop around" when it came to hospital quality was nearly impossible to follow a few years ago. But now, as part of efforts to improve health care quality and lower costs, hospital are getting better at sharing information, and organizations are taking that information and compiling in a way that potential patients can understand.

The types of quality measures that you may want to know concerning a hospital include:

  • Mortality rates
  • Complication and infection rates
  • Readmission rates
  • Surgical outcomes
  • Patient satisfaction
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5 hospital comparison websites

These 5 sites can help you compare important quality factors for hospitals in order to make the right choices for your care:

Hospital Compare
This is a very extensive and reliable site comparing 57 quality measures from 4,000 Medicare-certified hospitals. The data is compiled by the government's Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, in collaboration with other organizations and federal agencies. It also includes data from the large annual HCAHPS patient survey.

Visit Hospital Compare

Consumer Reports
The Consumer Reports Hospital Rating site takes the same data from the Hospital Compare site, but organizes and presents it in a user-friendly and easily understandable manner.

Visit Consumer Reports Hospital Ratings

The Leapfrog Group
The Leapfrog Group is a not-for-profit watchdog organization that promotes hospital quality and transparency by collecting and sharing hospital data from its own survey.

Visit The Leapfrog Group

Quality Check
This page can help you find organizations that have received the Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission, a not-for-profit group that accredits and certifies health organizations based on performance and safety standards.

Visit Quality Check

Health Grades
Health Grades may be best known for its physician rating system, but the organization also provides hospital quality ratings based on Medicare claims records.

Visit Health Grades

Limitations and drawbacks

These sites are a great place to get started when considering the best options for you if you're preparing for surgery, but they're not perfect. A 2007 study that compared some of the sites above with a few unnamed proprietary sites (such as a provider list your health insurance company may provide) found the level of transparency and accessibility of the data varied across sites. In fact, a sample search of 3 surgical procedures at 4 hospitals showed significant inconsistencies in the results.1

In addition to your online search, investigate hospital options by researching their reputation and results for the specific type of surgery you need, and also by talking to trusted friends, family, and health care providers.

Learn more:

Preparation Before Back Surgery

Spine Fusion - Choose Your Surgeon Thoughtfully

Reference:

  1. Publicly available hospital comparison web sites: determination of useful, valid, and appropriate information for comparing surgical quality. Arch Surg. 2007 Sep;142(9):863-8; discussion 868-9.