Choosing a treatment facility is another important consideration for getting the best medical care possible. Although you may not be able to choose which hospital treats you in an emergency, you can choose a facility for scheduled and ongoing care. If you have already found a doctor for your cancer treatment, you may need to choose a facility based on where your doctor practices. Your doctor may be able to recommend a facility that provides quality care to meet your needs. You may wish to ask the following questions when considering a treatment facility:
- Has the facility had experience and success in treating my condition?
- Has the facility been rated by state, consumer, or other groups for its quality of care?
- How does the facility check on and work to improve its quality of care?
- Has the facility been approved by a nationally recognized accrediting body, such as the American College of Surgeons (ACS) Commission on Cancer and/or The Joint Commission?
- Does the facility explain patients' rights and responsibilities? Are copies of this information available to patients?
- Does the treatment facility offer support services, such as social workers and resources, to help me find financial assistance if I need it?
- Is the facility conveniently located?
If you are a member of a health insurance plan, your choice of treatment facilities may be limited to those that participate in your plan. Your insurance company can provide you with a list of approved facilities. Although the costs of cancer treatment can be very high, you have the option of paying out-of-pocket if you want to use a treatment facility that is not covered by your insurance plan. If you are considering paying for treatment yourself, you may wish to discuss the possible costs with your doctor beforehand. You may also want to speak with the person who does the billing for the treatment facility. In some instances,nurses and social workers can provide you with more information about coverage, eligibility, and insurance issues.
The following resources may help you find a hospital or treatment facility for your care:
- The NCI-Designated Cancer Centers database (described above in the section Finding a Doctor) provides contact information for NCI-designated cancer centers around the country.
- The ACS's Commission on Cancer (CoC) accredits cancer programs at hospitals and other treatment facilities. More than 1,433 programs in the United States have been designated by the CoC as Approved Cancer Programs. The ACS Web site offers a searchable database of these programs at http://web.facs.org/cpm/CPMApprovedHospitals_Search.htm on the Internet. The CoC can be contacted by telephone at 312-202-5085.
- The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates and accredits health care organizations and programs in the United States. It also offers information for the general public about choosing a treatment facility. The Joint Commission's Web site can be found at http://www.jointcommission.org/ on the Internet. The Joint Commission can be contacted by telephone at 630-792-5000.
The Joint Commission offers an online Quality CheckTM service that patients can use to determine whether a specific facility has been accredited by the Joint Commission and to view the organization's performance reports. This service is located at http://www.qualitycheck.org/ on the Internet.
- The AHRQ publication Your Guide to Choosing Quality Health Care (described above in the section Finding a Doctor) has suggestions and checklists for choosing the treatment facility that is right for you.