What ‘quality health care’ should mean

While a trip to the doctor doesn’t often rank among people’s favorite things to do, it doesn’t need to be a negative experience. A number of hospitals and doctors are making the effort to quell the fears normally associated with going to the hospital and to redefine quality health care.

The phrase “quality health care” isn’t quite as simple as it seems on the surface. The idea brings together a variety of aspects of care and treatment, all of which contribute to the overall experience. However, for hospitals and health care providers, the guiding principle is the patient’s experience. That’s been the case for Chicago primary care providers at Rush University Medical Center who have made quality health care a top priority.

For patients who aren’t as well-versed in the complex functions of a hospital system, it’s important to know what to consider when it comes to your health care and to remember that you do have choices. “Patient empowerment” has become a hot topic within the discussion of quality of health care. Whether you’re trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle or treat an illness, there are a number of things to keep in mind.

First, not all hospitals are the same. It seems obvious on the surface, as some hospitals specialize in certain areas or have particular reputations. Beyond that, however, you should explore whether the hospitals you are considering provide the same level and extent of care, as that can vary widely. Additionally, it’s important to find out the amenities offered by the hospital, from the quality of the building to the use of electronic medical records.

Empowering yourself as a patient means making the extra effort to familiarize yourself with the information behind a hospital’s rankings and reputation. Health care institutions are scored by the federal government (through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) on factors like patient care and patient satisfaction. Some states also require information about services and satisfaction rates – for instance, the state of Illinois collects this kind of information about Chicago hospitals. You can compare these numbers to help in your decisions, and you can also get information on how well hospitals are meeting the national patient safety goals, which are set by the non-profit Joint Commission to promote safety.

And just as it’s a good idea to get a second opinion on your health, it’s best to rely on a variety of sources of information when evaluating hospitals – your insurance company might even offer tools to help make choices. There are also a growing number of resources on the Web that provide relevant information that’s easily understandable, even for those who haven’t been to medical school.

For the best possible health care experience, hospitals and patients need to work hand-in-hand. As some hospitals make the effort to improve their processes and patient satisfaction, new paths are being forged that will allow patients to get the best quality care. And when patients demand those quality innovations, the standards for health care will continue to improve.

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