When you arrive at the hospital, you expect excellent care from your medical team. After all, highly trained doctors and life saving equipment surround you. According to the Institute of Medicine, what you might not be aware of is that as many as 98,000 patients die each year as a result of medical errors during a hospital stay. That’s more people than die from car accidents, breast cancer, or AIDS. You can greatly reduce your odds of accidental injury or death by asserting yourself and showing interest in your care. Your No. 1 priority is to not become passive when entering the hospital.
Here are some additional steps to take:
Research your treatment plans. It’s easier to give up control, when you don’t know what’s going on. If you know what to expect in the hospital, you can take a more active role in monitoring your treatment. Many common procedures have pre-admission classes. Such classes explain what will occur each day in the hospital for a hip replacement surgery, open heart surgery, etc.
Ask Questions. Know what medications are being prescribed and why. Pay attention to what dose you’re being given before taking it. Do not assume the dosage is correct just because a nurse tells you it’s what the doctor ordered. Medication mistakes are the most common errors in hospitals, according to the IOM. It is also important to write down questions as they arise. When a doctor drops in, be sure to reach for your list.
Make sure that everyone who gives you medications checks your hospital ID bracelet every time. Patient mix-ups are more common than most hospitals would like to admit. Make sure the medical staff knows who you are by checking your ID bracelet.
Request that any allergies are noted prominently in your chart, and mention them to everyone who attends you. Furthermore, make sure your chart details every medication you are taking, including over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements such as herbs and vitamins.
Quiz your doctor. Especially if you require complex surgery, be sure that your medical team consists of experienced professionals. Quiz the doctor on the number of such surgeries they have performed and the associated outcomes. Ideally you want a specialist who has performed a large volume of the type of surgery you require.
Have a family member or friend nearby. Your medications might make you groggy and not allow you to operate at peak awareness. Arrange for someone to help you. Make sure they have been educated on your surgery just as well.
Upon discharge, ask medical staff to explain thoroughly the treatment you need to follow at home. Doctors and nurses often assume patients understand more than they do about follow-up care. It is best to ask questions before you leave the hospital, and to make note of who to call if more questions arise.