Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Choosing a Hospital

Choosing a Hospital

Overview

This may sound obvious, but the best time to choose a hospital is when you don't need one. That way you have the time to compare all the hospitals in your area and think about what your preferences are. You will want to consider what type of hospital you prefer, the hospital's reputation, and how well the hospital fits your needs.

Types of hospitals

There are many kinds of hospitals, large and small. Some are run by nonprofit organizations or charities. Some are public hospitals, which means they are funded by taxes. And some are run by corporations, whose investors get some of the profit. Three common types of hospitals include teaching, research, and specialized hospitals.

The hospital's reputation

Checking a hospital's reputation isn't as hard as you might think. For example, you can ask your doctor what he or she thinks. Or you can check with health and government agencies, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), who rate or report on the quality of hospitals.

How well the hospital fits your needs

Aside from a hospital's reputation for quality and safety, here are some other things to consider when choosing a hospital.

  • Can your doctor practice there?
  • If you have insurance, is the hospital covered by your plan?
  • How often is the type of treatment or surgery you're having done at that hospital? Hospitals that do certain surgeries or treatments more often are likely to have better success rates. Your surgeon should be able to help you get this information. Or you can call the hospital and ask for it.

The little things matter too. Comfort items can be especially important if you expect your hospital stay to be longer than a few days.

  • Visit the hospital and ask for a tour. Call ahead and make an appointment for this.
  • Ask to see a patient room or different types of patient rooms.
  • Have a snack or a meal in the cafeteria. Chances are the same chefs are in charge of the patients' meals.

The hospital's location may matter to you too. Think about how far you will have to drive, especially if there will be follow-up visits. Will friends and family be able to visit easily?

Compare the visiting rules of the hospitals you're considering. Some hospitals are stricter about visiting hours than others. Will the hospital let a loved one stay in the room with you overnight?

What are the different types of hospitals?

There are many kinds of hospitals, large and small. Some are run by nonprofit organizations or charities. Some are public hospitals, which means they are funded by taxes. And some are run by corporations, whose investors get some of the profit.

Teaching hospitals

Hospitals that operate in partnership with medical schools are called teaching hospitals. In a teaching hospital, medical students, supervised by experienced doctors, improve their skills on patients, which some people might not like. But these hospitals also tend to have the newest treatments and equipment. And patients often benefit from the medical students, residents, and supervising doctors all working together to think about the best care.

Research hospitals

Some hospitals call themselves research hospitals. This means that many of the doctors who work there do scientific research in their fields of specialty and may even conduct clinical trials. Patients at this kind of hospital are often treated by doctors who are experts in their fields.

Specialized hospitals

A hospital may specialize in one type of patient. There are children's hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, cancer centers, and hospitals for the elderly, for example.

A trauma center is a hospital that is equipped to handle extremely serious types of injuries.

What services do hospitals provide?

Usually, the more beds a hospital has, the more services it provides. Most hospitals, for example, deliver babies. But not all hospitals have a special unit just for cancer patients or for patients with very bad burns.

Hospitals usually have a number of departments that treat patients, such as:

Emergency department.

This is where patients go (or are taken by ambulance) when they have serious problems and need immediate help.

Maternity.

This is where mothers-to-be are cared for during childbirth.

Intensive care or critical care.

Patients in this department usually have life-threatening problems and need constant monitoring. Some hospitals have a separate pediatrics intensive care unit for children.

Neonatal intensive care.

This department specializes in caring for newborn babies who are ill or were born prematurely.

Imaging.

You may see this department if you need an X-ray, an MRI, a CT scan, or an ultrasound test.

Surgery.

This department contains the hospital's operating rooms and, usually, recovery rooms.

Larger hospitals may also have separate departments for certain specialties. For example, a hospital may have a cardiology unit, where heart patients are treated, or a special unit for people recovering from joint replacement surgery.

For certain treatments or surgeries, it can be important to go to a hospital with a lot of experience in those areas. Find out if any of the hospitals you're considering specialize in treating your condition.

Checking a hospital's reputation

Checking a hospital's reputation isn't as hard as you might think.

  • Ask your doctor what he or she thinks.
  • Ask your carrier, if you have insurance.

    Many insurance companies keep quality indicator records for doctors and facilities in the area.

  • Ask the hospital staff if they have patient surveys or internal quality check reports you can look at.
  • Check with health and government agencies who rate or report on the quality of hospitals.

    Your state's board of medicine or your insurance company can help you find these agencies. You can also see if the hospital is listed on one of these Internet sites:

    • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare
    • The Joint Commission, www.qualitycheck.org
    • The Leapfrog Group, www.leapfroggroup.org

What should you consider when choosing an emergency room?

In an emergency, it's usually best to go to the nearest emergency room (ER). But if there are several in your area, it's good to do some comparisons ahead of time.

Find out which ER has the shortest waiting times. You can usually find this out by calling the hospital and asking for its average patient wait in the ER.

Short waiting times in the ER are great, but quality of care is important. In some cases it may be worth the drive to go to the emergency room 20 miles away if they have better equipment—a trauma center, for example. Your doctor is a good source of information. Ask your doctor which ER he or she would take a family member to.

And nothing beats firsthand observation. Friends, neighbors, and coworkers who have been to the ER are good sources.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Better Care at Lower Costs Pregnancy: Deciding Where to Deliver Navigating Your Hospital Stay

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details