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Choose hospitals like TVs, shop around

Monday - 9/24/2012, 6:06pm  ET

What motivated Makary to write the book

Dr. Makary, Johns Hopkins

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WASHINGTON - Consumers often shop around before making a large purchase, but oftentimes take the first suggestion for the hospital they choose. That's according to Dr. Marty Makary who wrote a book about what patients should know and ask about before choosing a hospital.

"I hear patients frustrated all the time that they're forced to walk into their hospital blind. They've got info to choose a restaurant, a car, a plasma TV but they don't have a way of measuring the quality of their hospital," Makary says.

Makary is a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and teaches at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore.

There are now websites, beyond news sites like U.S. News and World Report, that rate hospitals' infection rates, readmission rates, complication rates and patient satisfaction rates among other things. These resources can help a patient decide where to have their treatment.

Some websites that compare hospitals are PubMed.gov, HospitalCompare and Vitals.com.

Many doctors and nurses would not go to their own hospitals for an operation, says Makary, which he says raises a red flag.

"When a plane crashes, every pilot in the country learns from that mistake. The black box is recovered, there's an investigation. Medicine, by in large, is still the wild west. It frustrates doctors to see bad quality as much as it frustrates the public," he says.

In Makary's book, called "Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You," he offers suggestions on asking the right questions before a procedure, and stresses the importance of getting a second opinion.

"Unaccountable" Book Trailer from Bloomsbury Press New Releases on Vimeo.