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02 Feb

The take-charge patient: How to ensure better care

I would speculate most of us know someone that was admitted to a hospital and had something go wrong.  In the mid 1970’s one of my classmate’s father entered the hospital for surgery.  He ended up catching a disease that not only killed him, but the family parrot. I hadn’t thought much about that memory until I came across the article “The surprising way to stay safe in the hospital” in the February 2015 issue of Consumer Reports.  It got me thinking, while it is the job of a hospital to give you the utmost care and consideration, do patients and their families need to be more assertive to ensure they get the best care?  

According to the article, “Almost 2,000 people on average pick up an infection in the hospital, and approximately 1,100 preventable drug errors occur.”  I went on to read that “hospital medical errors are linked to 440,000 deaths annually.” Here are a few tips from Consumer Reports to help you not become one of those statistics:

•    Choose the right hospital – If you’re in a non-emergency situation that allows time for you to choose your hospital, do your research! There’s endless information available via the web on hospitals in the US. For example, Consumer Reports offers hospital ratings on their website to help you pinpoint a good hospital in your area.
•    Have an advocate -- Sometimes a family member may ask the health provider questions you may not be thinking, which is particularly helpful as the whole hospital experience can be overwhelming.  
•    Be a pest -- If you don’t understand something ask again OR if you feel something isn’t right, point it out. I remember my doctor telling me, people who come to see her for the most minor things are usually the healthiest.
•    Help providers see you as a person – When you go to your General Practitioner for a check-up, you more than likely receive better care than you would at a random hospital because you have an ongoing relationship with your doctor and their staff. Since you do not have the luxury when being admitted into a hospital, you should remind the caretakers that you are more than a diagnosis. The article suggests telling the doctor/nurses to take a seat and showing them pictures of your family. “That takes you out of the roles of patient and doctor or patient and nurse into person and person,” says Eileen Ahearn, M.D., a psychiatrist at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital.
•    Write things down -- If you’re capable, have a pen and paper in hand to take notes. That will help minimize the flow of conflicting information. That’s good advice for doctor’s visits too. I've personally had a doctor tell me one thing during an initial visit, and another the next time I saw him a few weeks later.

The bottom line -- Patients need to take charge and be more assertive in various facets during their hospital stay or visit to any type of healthcare facility really. By taking the extra steps to do the suggestions listed above, a patient may better their chances of a speedy recovery and/or reduce their chances of being readmitted.  

 

Mickey Lovingood is a Business Development Coordinator on our Healthcare Business Development Team. She has more than 15 years’ experience in customer relations and sales.


 

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