While quality care should be a major factor in choosing a hospital, other details — such as location, patient rooms, and visiting hours — may also affect your decision. In some cases, the availability of certain support services (such as those discussed below) will also play a part. We each have different priorities when it comes to choosing a hospital, and some factors may be more important to you than others.
Location & Parking
Consider whether the hospital’s location is safe and convenient for you, your family, friends, and advocate. Is the hospital accessible by public transportation? Does the hospital have convenient and inexpensive parking?
Patient Rooms, Privacy, & Visitors
Find out whether you will share a room and how your privacy will be maintained. Ask about the hospital’s policy on visitors to find out the hours, if there is a limit on how many visitors you may have at one time or in one day, and what sort of accommodations are available for overnight visitors such as your spouse or advocate.
Dietary Restrictions & Cafeteria
Many people have restrictions on the food they eat. These may be for:
- Health maintenance (such as low-sodium or low-fat diets)
- Food allergies (such as peanuts or shellfish)
- Ethics or religion (such as limiting animal products)
Call the hospital you’re considering to find out how they will handle your dietary needs.
By California law, all general acute care hospitals must provide language assistance services 24 hours per day in languages spoken by large segments of the community. Hospitals keep a list of qualified interpreters, and information should be posted about how to get help.
Not all languages are supported, so you should call the hospital to find out if your needs will be met. Many hospitals contract with language interpretation services, which are available around the clock. It’s also a good idea to have a bilingual friend or relative with you as much as possible.
An ombudsman is trained to help patients, family members, and hospital staff sort out problems early and quickly to bring about the best resolution. An ombudsman facilitates communication between the patient and hospital staff and also with the health insurer. This person might deal with problems as small as a broken TV in a patient’s room or as important as how long a patient should remain hospitalized. Call the hospital to find out if it has an ombudsman on staff, when the ombudsman is available, and how to contact that person if necessary.
A social worker can help patients with Medicare, Media-Cal, and other insurance and payment matters. This person may also be able to help with other kinds of financial assistance, such as Social Security, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and disability benefits, as well as work-related issues, such as compassionate-care leave. The social worker is often the first person to turn to when the patient or family has questions or concerns about hospital care or services after the patient leaves the hospital.
A discharge planner helps patients prepare for leaving the hospital. This person makes sure you have all the information you need — in writing — about your medications, dietary restrictions, activity restrictions, follow-up appointments, and any therapy. A discharge planner will also arrange specific services (such as a visiting nurse or home health care) and equipment (such as oxygen or a hospital bed). Discharge planners are very important for patients who have lots of support needs after their hospitalization, and should be involved in the patient’s care from the start of their hospital stay.
Many hospitals employ a priest, minister, or other religious advisor to assist patients with their spiritual needs. Hospital chaplains can provide comfort to patients of any faith background, or you can arrange a visit from your own faith leader.
This specialized care manages the pain and stress of a serious illness and is provided by trained doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, clergy, and others. This team can help you prepare or change an advance directive. Palliative care professionals also assist with deciding on care options near the end of life, including the use of life-sustaining treatment such as ventilators and feeding tubes.
In addition to the above services, every hospital has its own rules and policies, which may affect your stay. If you have any questions about the hospital you’re considering, call the patient relations office.