Good Help, Close to Home

U.S.News & World Report—July 17, 2006

While some community hospitals do appear in the "America's Best Hospitals" rankings - a tribute to their quality- primary care centers are not the main focus. For the most part, then, you'll have to do your own data gathering. A good place to start is with a principle that has generated stacks of medical studies: Practice may not make perfect, but it helps -- a lot.

Doing a high volume of procedures hones a surgeon's skills, makes the operating room team more efficient and less error prone, and encourages hospitals to think harder about postoperative care and rehabilitation strategies.

Infection after joint replacement is a complication that prospective patients should always ask about, because the consequences, such as more surgery to replace the infected joint, can be serious. All surgeons and hospitals should know their infection rates and should be willing to discuss them, says Paul Pellicci, M.D., an attending orthopedic surgeon at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. "That's data that every hospital has. If they say they don't know, it's either because they don't want to tell you or they don't think you have the right to ask the question."

The more rare the diagnosis or the more difficult the procedure, the better off you'll be at a major referral center. Most of the time, however, your best choice could be just up the road.

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