You can evaluate a provider’s competence by looking at:
Whether they participate in continuing medical education
How they are viewed by former patients, peers and staff
How they monitor and improve their quality of care
There’s evidence that high-volume providers are more likely to give patients effective treatments. (“Is Volume Related to Outcome in Health Care?” Annals of Internal Medicine, September 17, 2002.) It stands to reason – a doctor who has handled many cases has an edge in both the science and the art of practicing medicine. This is especially true for complex medical and surgical cases.
It’s reasonable to expect that doctors with extensive experience with your type and stage of cancer will be more up-to-date on the latest techniques and better able to prevent complications.
Credentials are set by medical professional organizations to verify that doctors and hospitals meet certain standards in health care delivery.
For doctors: Board certification is a sign that a doctor is highly trained in his or her field. A physician becomes board certified by completing the designated years of residency training in that specialty and then by successfully completing a rigorous examination. Each specialty has a national board that is responsible for setting standards doctors must meet in order to be certified. Just because a doctor is listed as a specialist in an area doesn't mean he/she is board-certified in that area. Ask if all the doctors who will be on your team are board certified or what percentage of the care facility staff is board certified in their specialty.
Get information about board certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties.
For hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers: Make sure that the hospital or ambulatory surgery center has been accredited by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO), a nationwide authority that evaluates health care facility on staffing, equipment and safety. Reviews are done at least every 3 years.
Since accreditation is voluntary, the fact that the facility sought the review demonstrates that it is committed to providing the best care possible for its patients. Compare the results for your facility with national results. For information about a hospital's status, call the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Health-care Organizations at 708-792-5800. Or, check the JCAHO's Web site.
Reports may exist on several aspects of quality such as:
Health status and the quality of life patients experience following treatment
Ratio of support staff (nurses, social workers, case managers, patient advocates) to patients.
As part of our commitment to providing patients the most effective cancer treatment possible, we maintain a Cancer Registry.
The Cancer Registry contains case information on each of our patients which can be compared with data from cancer centers nationwide. By analyzing Cancer Registry data, we are able to continually improve the quality of care and treatment we provide our patients.
Get information About Cancer Registries
Be aware that each individual’s situation is unique and many factors, such as age, other medical problems and lifestyle issues, can affect outcomes. Also, some facilities tend to treat more difficult cases, which can skew the data. That's why it's so hard to compare information from one institution to another. Ask for how a provider’s outcome numbers compare to the national average and an explanation for any variation. It's also possible to check reports by calling your state board of quality assurance to check for malpractice cases and quality of care complaints. Keep in mind that a facility that treats a large number of cancer cases each year may have more information on file than one that treats fewer cases.
How They Are Viewed by Former Patients, Peers and Staff
Many facilities routinely ask patients to fill out satisfaction surveys. Surveys take time to compile, however, so the information is just a snapshot in time. Ask if any changes have been made since the last survey was sent. When you ask for a recommendation, be sure to get specifics on why the person thinks highly of a doctor or care center.
How They Monitor and Improve Their Quality of Care
The best facilities have ongoing procedures in place for improving their quality of care using patient satisfaction and clinical performance measures to identify issues. Many have specialists on staff to manage key components of quality. For instance, a hospital may employ an infection control practitioner to coordinate procedures for the prevention of hospital-acquired illnesses.
Magnet Status Designation
Nationally recognized for leadership in research, professional practice, and quality education, the reputation of our nursing program at Strong Memorial Hospital ranks among the best in the nation. Strong Memorial Hospital was recently recognized as a Nursing Magnet Hospital, an international nursing quality designation enjoyed by only about 2 percent of hospitals in the country. Magnet Status is an award given by the American Nurses’ Credentialing Center to hospitals that satisfy a demanding set of criteria measuring the strength and quality of their nursing. Designation recognizes the quality of our nursing program and demonstrates its importance, and the importance of our nurses to the success of the entire organization.