That's a great question! Choosing a hospital is definitely important and can be tricky. Our Prepared Patient feature article on hospital report cards talks about different ways people choose hospitals and offers some tips:http://www.preparedpatientforum.org/finding/reportcards.cfm
Our Prepared Patient 411 also offers some resources:
Hospital rankings and ratings have become more widely available. Although you might not be able to freely choose a hospital if your doctor only has privileges in one place, your insurance only applies to certain facilities or if you can't travel far, it can be helpful to know whether there are any differences in the possibilities available to you.
American Cancer Society
Choosing a Doctor and Hospital
Consumers' CHECKBOOK is an independent, nonprofit consumer organization that provides consumers information to help them get high quality services and products at the best possible prices. They produce a National Guide to Hospitals that can be purchased for $22 from their site.
HealthGrades offers free information on how over 5,000 hospital facilities rate on 28 common medical conditions or procedures. More detailed reports on individual hospitals, including safety ratings, the average length of stay in the hospital and cost of common procedures, are available for $9.95 and $2.95 for each additional report in one order.
Hospital Compare is a service from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which allows you to search for Medicare-certified hospitals in your area. You can find out about how they rate in terms of quality care such as heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia compared to other hospitals nationwide (where performance data is available). In some cases, patient satisfaction and general medical care ratings are also provided. The site also allows you to compare up to three hospitals side-by-side.
Quality Check is the Joint Commission's search engine to locate Joint Commission accredited health care organizations in the United States. You can search by city and state, by name or by zip code.
The Leapfrog Group offers quality and safety ratings online for free. The ratings measure hospitals' performance in areas such as patient safety, technology, high risk procedures and intensive care, rather than specific procedures or diseases. Leapfrog uses information that hospitals report voluntarily, so their ratings may not be available for all hospitals in your area.
US News America's Best Hospitals