Pick a teaching hospital
Paper Artwork by Kyle Bean, Photograph by Mitch Payne for Reader's Digest
"For complex surgical procedures, you’re generally better off at teaching hospitals, which usually stay at the forefront of health research. Medical students and residents ask questions, providing more eyes and ears to pay attention and prevent errors. Teaching hospitals have lower complication rates and better outcomes." —Evan Levine, MD, a cardiologist and the author of What Your Doctor Can’t (or Won’t) Tell You. Don't miss these other 50 things your surgeon won't tell you.
Beware freestanding ERs
"Those freestanding ERs popping up all over? They typically don't have anywhere near the resources of hospital ERs, yet they cost just as much. Go there for small bumps and bruises. For something serious (chest pain, a badly broken bone), get to a trauma center where specialists and surgeons work." —James Pinckney, MD, an ER doctor, founder of Diamond Physicians in Dallas, Texas. Check out these other 50 secrets an ER staff won't tell you.
Shop around for rehab
"If you’re being released for rehab, shop around for a place that has experience with your condition. We found that rehab facilities that handle more than two dozen hip fractures a year were more than twice as likely to successfully discharge seniors within a month as less experienced facilities were." —Pedro Gozalo, a public health researcher at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Here are 14 more secrets physical therapists aren't telling you.
"Superbugs live everywhere, and they can travel. Even if your doctor washed his hands, that sparkling white coat brushing against your bed can easily transfer a dangerous germ from someone else’s room. Ask for bleach and alcohol wipes to clean bed rails, remotes, doorknobs, phones, call buttons, and toilet flush levers. Wash your hands before you eat." —Karen Curtiss, author of Safe & Sound in the Hospital: Must-Have Checklists and Tools for Your Loved One’s Care. Here are 14 more tips to avoid getting sick.
Join the conversation
"Ask your nurses to do a 'bedside shift change.' This is when they share information in your presence instead of at the nurses’ station. You can better correct any errors. [Studies show it also improves communication and care.]" —Karen Curtiss. Here are 9 other mistakes that can lead to misdiagnosis in the ER.
Don't be a distraction
"Don’t interrupt the nurse when he’s preparing your medications. One study found that the more times you distract him, the greater the likelihood of error. [Each interruption was linked to a 12 percent increase in errors.]" —Sally Rafie, a hospital pharmacist with the UC San Diego Health System. Check out these other 34 secrets your pharmacist won't tell you.
Ask what your doctor will be doing
"The surgeon who performed the best in our complication rate analysis said he and his partner drape their patients, do the whole operation, and close the incision themselves. He said, 'I just know nobody is going to do it as carefully as I’m going to.' Check whether your doctor will be doing your entire procedure and whether she will do your follow-up care." —Marshall Allen, a reporter who covers patient safety for ProPublica, a nonprofit news outlet. Find out why you probably shouldn't trust a plastic surgeon on Instagram.
Nurses are overwhelmed
"Hospitals often force nurses to handle more patients than they should—even though studies show if your nurse is responsible for fewer patients, they have better outcomes. California is the only state with hospital-wide minimum nurse-patient staffing ratios. Researcher Linda Aiken at the University of Pennsylvania found that each extra patient a nurse has above an established nurse-patient ratio made it 7 percent more likely that one of those patients would die." —Deborah Burger, RN, copresident of National Nurses United. Here are 50 more secrets nurses want you to know.
Administrators make big bucks
"Top administrators at U.S. hospitals are paid extremely well. CEOs make $400,000 to $500,000 a year, not including benefits like stock options. Administrative expenses eat up as much as 25 percent of total hospital expenses we pay for—much higher than in other countries." —Cathy Schoen, executive director of the Council of Economic Advisors at the Commonwealth Fund, a foundation that focuses on health care. Hold on to your own money with these 11 tips for lowering your hospital bill.
Doctors are incentivized to overtreat
"I hear from surgeons all the time whose bosses are basically beating on them to do more operations. While some hospital systems have moved to flat salaries, most still provide bonuses for more volume. Doctors have an incentive for overtreatment." —Marty Makary, MD, MPH, a surgeon and the author of Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won’t Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care. Be extra careful when it comes to these 14 risky medical treatments that don't always work.