A little preparation goes a long way. Needless to say, the better the hospital and quality of care, the better your outcome and chances of surviving your stay. It is, therefore, worthwhile doing a little homework and exploring the quality of healthcare available to you. The best time to do this is when you're well and not in need of it. This is because, by the time you fall ill, it is likely to be last thing on your mind to consider. So, here are a few pointers to follow-up:
* Find out how your local hospital's performance compares with others across the country. In the UK, the National Health Service (NHS) and the Department of Health (DoH) regularly publish league tables that rate hospitals according to various indicators, including waiting times, cancer waiting times, MRSA-related death rates, surgery-related death rates and the number of complaints (see www.nhs.uk or www.dh.gov.uk)
* Consider going to a teaching hospital. While junior doctors handle most of the everyday care, teaching hospitals also offer the most up-to-date treatments and medical technology for complicated conditions
* Get a first-hand insight by taking advantage of tours offered by some hospitals of their facilities. Although these tours will most likely show the hospital in its most favourable light, it will also give an idea of the level of medical care available; you can also see for yourself how the staff and employees interact with the patients
* Prioritise what's important. During your investigation, always keep in mind the factors that have a direct influence on your wellbeing. While attractive accommodation may be appealing, it is the level of hygiene and cleanliness that will influence the final outcome of your hospital stay. Also, don't exaggerate negative aspects such as unexpected scheduling delays, or being woken at night by other patients or by staff taking readings. These may be bothersome, but they will not compromise your health.