By L. Reuven Pasternak, MD
How can you be sure you’ll get safe, quality care when you go to a hospital? You can consult any of the numerous rating systems created by the government, insurance companies, medical associations, registries, health care report cards, national magazines and patient evaluation websites. However, because there are no common guidelines for rating attributes like hospital quality or safety, it’s difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons. The same hospital can be rated at the top by one agency and at the bottom by another.
When you’re searching for information, rely only on results from reputable, unbiased sources. And make sure the information is up-to-date. A ranking or a report card based on data that’s more than a year old may no longer be accurate.
With no single source of reliable, relatable information to evaluate health care providers, how can you uncover the facts you need?
Ask your primary care physician for a referral. Your doctor is very familiar with the quality of care that hospitals and specialists in your area provide. Talk to family and friends who’ve had firsthand experience. Ask nurses and doctors if they would send their relatives to that hospital or specialist.
Hospital and state health department websites provide statistics about procedures, results, specialists and facility certifications. Some hospitals also post information about the specialists who work there. If you’re having heart or orthopedic surgery, for example, get specifics about those procedures. Find out how often the surgeon and surgical team have done the procedure and what the nurse-to-patient ratio is, as well as the rate of readmissions and infections, in addition to other indicators of safety and quality.
And, find out what the hospital is doing to improve. Hospitals should always be looking to raise the bar, to pursue excellence. With our Patient Safety First program and other quality and safety initiatives, Stony Brook University Hospital has instituted rigorous systems to identify and prevent potential issues rather than react to them.
To enhance the patient experience, we have made and continue to make many improvements. For example, we’ve created “quiet times,” which involve shutting lights during specified times during the day, and we will also be offering noise reduction aids in the near future. To make the rooms more comfortable, we’re improving furnishings and creating a clutter-free environment. And, beyond the walls of our hospital, we’re taking steps to coordinate care among more than 500 countywide organizations to support health care providers and patients in achieving individual health goals.
Finally, don’t wait until an emergency happens to learn about health care facilities in your area. There is a lot of useful information available to help people make good choices, but it’s best accessed before you need it. At Stony Brook University Hospital, we want to answer all your questions — simply call our Department of Patient Advocacy at 631-444-2880 or visit www.stonybrookmedicine.edu.
Our goal is to exceed your expectations every time you turn to Stony Brook for your care — by delivering high quality, safe and compassionate care that supports your well-being every step of the way.
L. Reuven Pasternak, MD, is the CEO at Stony Brook University Hospital and vice president for health systems at Stony Brook Medicine