Tools to select the right health care provider

As a consumer, you want to know where to find the best and safest care possible, but data to help you make those decisions are limited. Several organizations offer tools to help patient “shoppers” compare providers. None are perfect, but you may find some of the information useful in your search for quality care.

Compare health care facilitiesCompare doctors and other providersOther resources

Choosing a health care facility 

  • Compare hospitals
    • Hospital Compare
      Compare the quality of up to three hospitals at a time using this tool from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Ratings are available for a range of areas such as readmission rates, timeliness of care, surgical complication rates, and potential overuse of medical imaging like x-rays and MRIs.

    • Leapfrog's Compare Hospitalsand Hospital Safety Score
      View hospital ratings and information put together by the Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit. Much of Leapfrog's information comes from voluntary surveys of hospital officials and is not independently verified. Leapfrog also assigns letter grades to hospitals to help you make comparisons, using information from its voluntary survey as well as data from other organizations.

    • PatientCareLink's Hospital Data
      Compare Massachusetts hospitals on select quality and safety measures, such as the ability to prevent blood clots, care for stroke victims, and death rate for heat attack patients. You can also see staffing reports for different hospital units. The data is provided by  PatientcareLink, a collaborative represented by the Massachusetts Hospital Association, the Organization of Nurse Leaders of MA, RI, NH & CT, and the Home Care Alliance of Massachusetts.

  • Compare nursing homes
    • Nursing Home Compare
      Find detailed information about every Medicare and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the country. The tool, offered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, rates facilities on 5-star scales based on the results of health inspections, nurse staffing levels, and the quality of care.

    • Massachusetts Nursing Home Survey Performance Tool
      Compare quality ratings for nursing homes in Massachusetts based on information collected by the state’s Division of Health Care Facility Licensure and Certification. Facilities are evaluated in five categories: administration, nursing, resident rights, food services, and environment. Learn more about the tool’s data and scoring methodology. 

    • Nursing Home Inspect
      Compare nursing homes based on fines and "deficiencies" - or flaws - found during state inspections during the past three years. The tool is offered by ProPublica, a nonprofit organization.

      For information on Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) and other individual long-term care providers, see the last two resources listed below under "Verify that a health professional is in good standing.”

Choosing a doctor or other health care professional

  • Compare doctors
    • Surgeon Scorecard
      Search for individual surgeons to see how often there were complications in surgeries they performed. ProPublica, a nonprofit organization, assigns scores of low, medium, and high rates of complication for surgeons who performed any one of eight common procedures, such as knew and hip replacements, for Medicare patients between 2009-2013.

    • Compare Primary Care Doctors’ Offices
      Compare adult and pediatric physician offices on the site Healthcare Compass MA, run by the nonprofit Massachusetts Health Quality Partners. Doctors’ offices are rated on patient experience—such as how well doctors communicate with their patients—and clinical quality, such as patients receiving routine cancer screenings and checking for side effects from medications. Information is based on two sources: a voluntary survey sent to primary care patients in Massachusetts and a select set of clinical quality data.

  • ​Verify that a health professional is in good standing
    • Physician Profiles Search
      Search for physicians in Massachusetts based on specialty or location to find information on their education, training, and professional awards. The Board of Registration in Medicine’s physician profiles also include any instances of criminal convictions, hospital or board discipline, and medical malpractice payments.

    • License verification site for dentistry, EMS, pharmacy, nursing
      Verify the status of a health provider’s state license to practice, and any disciplinary actions taken against them, via the Department of Public Health’s website. Information is available for a variety of professions including dentistry, emergency medical services, pharmacy, nursing and nurse aides.

    Excluded and suspended professionals
    Check these state and federal lists before hiring in-home caregivers such as home health aides and personal care attendants.

    • MassHealth list of suspended or excluded providers
      Search the list of individuals and entities in Massachusetts that are suspended or excluded from participating in MassHealth for reasons such as fraud or other criminal activity. Individuals whose names appear on this list should NOT be hired to work as caregivers. The list is organized by provider type.

    • Federal Exclusions Database
      Search the U.S. Office of Inspector General’s list of “Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE)” to find health care individuals who are excluded from participation in Medicare, Medicaid and all other Federal health care programs. Individuals whose names appear on this list should NOT be hired to work as caregivers.

Questions to ask when selecting a provider

Know the right questions to ask when you visit a facility or meet with a provider for the first time. Here are some pointers:

  • Hospitals— The federal government publishes an official guide to choosing a hospital to help consumers judge the quality of facilities. It includes sample questions, checklists, and other things you should consider before choosing which hospital to use for your care.
  • Nursing homes—The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s website has helpful guidance on choosing a nursing home including over 50 questions to consider asking when touring nursing homes. The federal government also offers a 4-page nursing home checklist to help you with your decision. And the Massachusetts Senior Care Association offers a short-list of “what to look for and ask about” when visiting nursing homes. 
  • Physicians—The federal government suggests 5 questions to ask yourself when choosing a new doctor. At your first appointment, ask about things like your symptoms and any prescriptions you take. Then pay attention to the answers, but also how your doctor gives them: were explanations rushed? Did he or she look you in the eye when talking? Did you feel comfortable asking follow-up questions? You will likely feel better about the care you receive if you have a good relationship with your doctor.

Other resources

Your health insurance plan may be able to help you. Some plans use “tiers” to help their members determine which doctors or facilities offer the “highest value,” meaning quality care for the most reasonable price.  

Do you know of other good resources to help consumers find quality health care providers? We want to hear about them! Please share suggestions with us via our feedback page.