How to Choose a Heart Hospital
By Author Name
Jan 18, 2017
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
You know where to find the perfect cup of coffee, and you’re a natural when it comes to a killer deal on shoes. You don’t set foot in a new restaurant without knowing its star rating.
But when your aging mom or dad – or perhaps even you – need heart care, Yelp and Google reviews aren’t as helpful. Your physician might make a decision for you without your input. Today, people amass a wealth of research when shopping for everything from a pair of headphones to a house, yet when it comes to something really important, like choosing a hospital for complex heart care, they might feel lost.
This is understandable, because a hospital is not a fast-food joint, and most people don’t even know what to look for. That’s where we can help.
“Ideally, you want to find a heart care program that combines patient-centered care and great technology,” says William D. Anderson, MD, Chief Medical Director for Cardiovascular Services at SCL Health. “Should you need it, you should have access to the best technology and expertise available, but that care should be delivered to you in a way that involves you in decision making and keeps your best interests in mind.”
Here are 6 things to look for in the event you or a loved one need heart care.
Ask your health insurer for information on the best physicians and hospitals. In addition, ask your primary care physician and other doctors and nurses you know for a recommendation. Often, the best doctors’ names will come up again and again.
Look for a hospital that successfully performs large volumes of similar procedures, and ask how many cases your hospital and physician have performed.
In 2011, the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines stated that the best surgical outcomes are found with high-volume surgeons in high-volume hospitals.
A 2003 study concluded that high-volume hospitals, those that perform more than 200 coronary artery bypass graft surgeries (CABG) annually, and high-volume surgeons, those who perform more than 50 CABG surgeries annually, continue to have better results than lower-volume programs.
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons provides Public Reporting Online to enable you to search hospitals in your region to see heart surgery scores and star ratings.
“Participating in this database allows hospitals to monitor surgical quality and outcomes,” says Dr. Anderson. “That information is used to improve patient outcomes, identify new areas for quality improvement and accurately evaluate risk for major procedures.”
If a hospital you’re considering makes this information publicly available, ask for its patient satisfaction scores.
Ask about who will participate in your procedure. A heart care team should include nurses dedicated to cardiac care, cardiac rehab specialists, board certified cardiologists, fellowship-trained surgeons and certified physician assistants who specialize in patient care.
If a heart care program participates in clinical research it may have access to newer and more innovative forms of treatment, and may be able to provide treatment options to patients who otherwise may not have had other treatments available to them.