Here are some resources for doing basic research on hospitals:
A. The Internet Hospital Directory posts an extensive list of links to U.S. and foreign hospital Web sites. The Find Healthcare Center database provides U.S. hospital names, address, phone numbers and links to the hospital's web site.
B. A number of websites provide rankings of the best hospitals, including U.S. News and World Report, Consumer Reports, Healthgrades, and The Leapfrog Group. You might also want to try the "top" hospital search on the Castle Connolly Web site.
C. You can compare hospitals based on patient satisfaction surveys using Hospital Compare, a joint project of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Health and Human Services.
C. Some state and local government agencies post data on hospitals, such as the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation's HHC In Focus and the Maryland Health Care Commission's Hospital Guide.
D. Tax-exempt hospitals have to file Form 990s with the IRS. You can get copies using the databases listed in the "Tax Returns" section of the Tax-Exempt Organizations entry.
E. The Mergent Municipal and Government Manual gives a financial profile of many public hospitals.
Following are some special topics I've researched in the past.
Accreditation: Accreditation standards for U.S. hospitals are published in the Comprehensive Accreditation Manual for Hospitals (formerly AMH: Accreditation Manual for Hospitals) by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). JCAHO also publishes the Medical Staff Handbook: A Guide to Joint Commission Standards.
Canon Law: The Hospital Contracts Manual includes chapters discussing the effect of religious law and church organization on doing business with Catholic and Protestant health care organizations.
Forms: Many of the most common forms used by hospitals are included and discussed in the Hospital Contracts Manual (Aspen).
Healthcare Integrity Data Bank: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services maintains the
"Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank" (HIPDB) as part of "a national health care fraud and abuse data collection program for reporting and disclosing certain final adverse actions taken against health care providers, suppliers, or practitioners." If you can get access to the HIPDB, you can see if the hospital has been successfully sued or disciplined for financial improprieties.
Information about these Data Banks is posted at www.npdb-hipdb.com. However, access to the database is generally limited to government agencies and insurers. If you need this sort of information, try to get access to the Data Bank through one of these eligible entities.