Hospital citations raises questions in making healthcare choices

The Pennsylvania Department of Health's recently cited Penn State Hershey Medical Center for the hospital's failing to administer care to three patients in a timely manner, two of whom died.

For anyone who has concerns about the quality of their healthcare, asking your doctor tough questions is one way to get the answers.

Their are a few ways to take matters into your own hands to get the answers you might need.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health investigates safety concerns and can issue citations to hospitals for violations.

Healthcare advocates have a few suggestions on what patients should consider in determining if their hospital is the right hospital for them.

Finding the best healthcare for yourself or a loved one might difficult for some, which begs the question 'should there be a standard rating system for hospitals as there are for restaurants?'

Hospital and Healthsystems of Pennsylvania (HAP) CEO, President  Andy Carter said "the federal government tried to take all their many measures, which we encourage people to look at, and boil it down into a single star rating. Boy has that created a lot of problems. Really not taking into account all the different circumstances that the hospitals face."

Carter says there are many online resources available for prospective patients to compare healthcare options, including Hospital and Healthsystems of Pennsylvania's own website here.

HAP and and several other organizations keep tabs on hospitals, and what factors affect a patient's quality of care.

"One of the best ones is how often is a patient having to come back to the hospital, within 30 days to get something that went wrong fixed. That's not something we want to have happen, so we keep a very close eye on that," Carter said.

A hospital's infection rate is also something many online resources take into consideration in rating a hospital.

"It's a big source of problems for patients, that they go in for a surgical procedure and end up getting an infection, in the hospital. We're working very hard to reduce those, and we keep a real close eye on infection rates," Carter said.

Carter credits the state's requirements for hospitals to report incidents to the Department of Health for creating better transparency.

"I think the good news for Pennsylvanians, is that we are a high quality state and we are publishing data routinely about the performance of member hospitals, so that we all know we're under scrutiny to deliver high quality care," Carter said.

While the state health department issues citations to hospitals in Pennsylvania, a health department spokesperson suggests turning to a federal government website to compare the quality of area hospitals.

Hospital comparison resources include: