Speak Up Campaign
March 08, 2007
Being a patient in a hospital can be risky business. Every year at least 98,000 Americans die as a result of medical errors - that's twice the number killed in car accidents. But there is something you can do to ensure that you don't become one of these statistics. Dr. Mom has more.
As many as 98,000 Americans die each year because of medical errors despite an unprecedented focus on patient safety. Two large studies suggest that medical errors are the eighth leading cause of death among Americans, with error-caused deaths each year in hospitals alone exceeding those from mother vehicle accident, breast cancer or AIDS.
To help prevent health care errors, patients are urged to Speak UP. The Speak Up program is sponsored by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Simple advice is provided on how you, as the patient, can make your care a positive experience. Research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their health care are more likely to have better outcomes.
Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you don't understand, ask again. It is your body and you have a right to know.
Pay attention to the care you are receiving. Make sure you are getting the right treatments and medications by the right health care professionals. Don't assume anything.
- Do not be embarrassed to ask questions
- Don't be afraid to ask about safety.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions about your medication.
- Don't hesitate to tell the health care professional if you think he or she has confused you with another patient.
Educate yourself about your diagnosis, the medical tests you are undergoing, and your treatment plan.
- Tell the nurse or physician if something doesn't seem quite right.
- Expect health care workers to introduce themselves, and look for their identification badge.
- Notice whether your caregivers have washed their hands, thus helping prevent the spread of infection.
- Make sure your nurse or physician checks your wristband or asks your name, before he/she administers any medication or treatment.
Ask a trusted family member or friend to be your advocate.
- Ask your physician for his/her qualifications.
- Gather information about your condition from physician, websites, and support groups.
- Write down important facts your physician tells you. Ask for written information you can keep.
- Read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before signing.
- Make sure you are familiar with the operation of any equipment that will be used in your care.
Know what medications you take and why you take them. Medication errors are the most common health care mistakes.
- Your advocate can ask questions that you may not think of while you are under stress.
- Ask this person to stay with you during your visit. Your advocate can help to make sure you get the right medication and treatment. Your advocate can also help remember answers to questions you have asked, and speak up for you if you cannot.
- Make sure this person understands your preferences for care and your wishes concerning hospitalization, life support, and resuscitation.
- Review consents for treatment with your advocate before you sign them and make sure you both understand exactly what you are agreeing to.
- Make sure your advocate understands the type of care you will need when you get home. Your advocate sho9uld know what to look for if your condition is getting worse and whom to call for help.
Use an ambulatory care center, ambulatory surgery center, office-based surgery practice, primary care center, or other type of health care organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation against established, state-of-the-art quality and safety standards, such as that provided by the Joint Commission.
- Ask about the purpose of the medication and ask for written information about it. Inquire about the side effects of the medication.
- If you do not recognize a medication, verify that it is for you. Ask about oral medications before swallowing, and read the contents of the bags of IV fluids.
- If you are given an IV, ask the nurse how long it should take for the liquid to "run out."
- Tell your physicians and nurses about allergies you have, or negative reactions you have had to medications in the past.
- If you are taking multiple medications, ask your physician or pharmacist if it is safe to take those medications together. This is also true for vitamins, herbal supplements, and over the counter drugs.
- Make sure you can read the handwriting on any prescriptions written by your doctor. If you can't read it, the pharmacist may not be able to either.
Participate in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.
- If you have more than one ambulatory care organization or office-based surgery practice to choose from, ask your physician which one offers the best care for your condition.
- Before you leave the ambulatory care organization, ask about follow-up care and make sure that you understand all the instructions.
- Go to Quality Check at www.qualitycheck.org to find out whether your ambulatory care organization is accredited.
- Don't be afraid to seek a second opinion.
- You and your doctor should agree on exactly what will be done during each step of your care.
- Know how long the treatment should last and how you should feel.
- Ask you doctor what a new test or medication is likely to achieve.
- Keep copies of your medical records.
- Speak with others who have undergone the procedure you are considering. They can help you prepare for the days and weeks ahead.