Medical Errors - 10 Steps to Protect Yourself

Be the pilot of your own health care. Use this easy Personal Health Issue Checklist as a guide.
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"Hospital employees recognize and report only one out of seven errors, accidents and other events that harm Medicare patients while they are hospitalized"  according to a 2012 report released by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Adverse events include medication errors, severe bedsores, infections that patients acquire in hospitals, delirium resulting from overuse of painkillers and excessive bleeding linked to improper use of blood thinners.

The problem, it reports is that hospital employees do not recognize "what constitutes patient harm."

Finally recognizing this, hospitals are begining to adopt Hospital Checklists. It's a concept airline pilots have used for years. The hospital staff needs to sign off that each step on the list has been accomplished.

However, clearly hospital staff isn't yet able to protect patients. Patients, family and friends need to be proactive.  Patients need their own checklist to be protected. If  there is a health care issue for a loved one or yourself, you are your own pilot.

Use this Checklist to monitor what you can do. As a woman after 50 or 60 you can protect yourself, and help others.
 
Personal Health Issue Checklist
 
1. Assume an Attitude of Active Involvement
It’s too easy to slip into letting the experts handle it. They can be too stressed, too busy, too easily misunderstood, too distracted, not good communicators. Continually questions and clarifications.
 
2. Take Notes
When talking to a doctor or health care professional, writing it down as they talk helps you to focus. You can ask them to repeat and go over the information again. You'll have the reference later.
 
3. Bring a Friend – Or Be One at An Appointment.
Two people at an appointment are far more likely to hear and record all the information correctly. When your emotions are affected, your rate of understanding and remembering can go down.
 
4. Have a Friend, Family Member or Private Nurse Stay Overnight in the Hospital
Hospitals will usually bring in a cot or recliner for the night, especially after an operation. Staffs are overworked, sometimes unresponsive. A visitor can be an advocate, remember what’s been said, report conditions, ask questions and provide a comforting presence.
 
5. Bring Written Information With You and Be Sure Its Seen
It will be easier to remember to report all the prescriptions you’re taking, the questions you have. Don’t forget to list your supplements, herbs - they can affect medications. List your allergies and adverse reactions and be sure their recorded by the professional.
 
6. Read the Prescription
Doctor’s handwriting is notoriously bad. If you can’t read it maybe the pharmacist can’t either.
 
7. Monitor Hand Washing
It’s a major source of new infections. If you don’t see it, ask. It can be intimidating but worth it to remind everyone who is in your room or provides health care.
 
8. Discuss Medications with the Pharmacist or Nurse
Is the right medicine? What’s the right dose and frequency? How to measure a dose? One study showed 88 percent of medical errors involved the wrong drug or wrong dose. Be sure you get the insert on side effects and read it.

9. For Surgery, Choose a Hospital With Frequent Successful Experience With That Specific Surgery.
You want a surgeon and a hospital that has done that specific operation many times recently. All hospitals are not experts at at all operations.
 
10. For Operations, Be Sure the Correct Side of the Body is Physically Marked on Your Body. Sounds crazy but operations on the wrong leg still happened. Something that looks like a magic marker should be used.

Remember:  One in 3 hospital patients suffers a medical error or adverse event (10 times greater than previously believed); Nearly 1 in 5 Medicare patients is readmitted within 30 days of leaving the hospital - 1 in 7 of them was harmed in the course of care
 
The new data isn’t based on worse care but on better information. Using existing systems and methods, hospitals and staff were underreporting. The previous report in Health Affairs, April 12, 2011 also explains corrective programs including trying to empower nurses to correct and report issues.
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