Patients do not have to rely solely on a doctor referral any longer when it comes to choosing where they want to seek medical treatment.
A wide-ranging amount of information is now available online for consumers to check regarding hospital performance.
"If you or a member of your family is going to get a complex medical procedure done, you should check online," said Vivian Ho, the director of Health Policy for the Baker Institute at Rice University.
Ho said among the most user friendly is Medicare.gov, which allows users to search for hospitals in their area by ZIP code.
Using the hospital compare feature, consumers can stack hospitals side-by-side and compare them the same way they'd compare car insurance companies.
"It provides them information on everything having to do with their own satisfaction with their visits, whether they can get sleep at night in the hospital to mortality rates, complication rates in terms of getting treated and getting better," said Ho.
Other websites are compiling Medicare data and information and making it digestible for consumers.
The Association of Healthcare Journalists launched hospitalinspections.org, an online searchable database of violation reports at hospitals across the nation.
"We need to hold health care providers accountable and this data will allow us to do that," said Ho.
For instance, reports posted on the Agency for Health Care Administration's website show Orlando Health had 11 violations and Florida Hospital Orlando had 20 over the years. Those violations were mostly for improper documentation.
Local 6 reached out to both hospitals. Orlando Health provided the following statement:
"Orlando Health encourages potential patients to visit online rating tools to help determine which hospital or healthcare provider can best meet their medical needs. There are nearly half a dozen rating services currently available to Florida consumers. We appreciate the efforts of these services and strive to continually enhance the quality of care we provide to patients."
Ho noted that violation reports should be considered with caution.
"If you looked at all the major hospitals across the street, they were listed for at least one violation, but that doesn't mean that they provide poor care. You have to go and look at all the specific reports and you find that there may have been one patient where they didn't do a discharge plan correctly," she said.
Ho recommended several other websites where consumers can comparison shop hospitals:
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