Many people take the opportunity to clear off their to-do lists during the summer months. An elective medical procedure might not want to be one of your check offs. A study by the Journal of Internal Medicine found that there is a 10% increase in fatalities in teaching hospitals during the month of July. In large part, this can be attributed to new doctors beginning their residencies during this time. Many of these deaths are attributed to errors in prescribing medications.
A 2008 study conducted on Medicare recipients, mandated by Congress, found that 1 in 7 hospital patients had an unintended harm that caused them to stay in the hospital longer, resulted in permanent injury, needed life-sustaining treatment, or caused death. While these numbers are staggering and should cause alarm, you are not necessarily helpless when it comes to preventing these errors. Being a proactive patient can help prevent some of these errors from occurring.
How to be a Proactive Patient
- If you can, pick a hospital with a low-level rate of infection. Your doctor can help you look over your options.
- Make sure your doctor is board certified in his or her specialty and that he or she has performed the procedure a number of times.
- While convenient for recovery time, Friday afternoon procedures are not at the most optimal time for reducing errors. Doctors and staff have found to be more fatigued.
- Hospitals that have switched to electronic medical records report less prescription and dosage errors as well as drug interactions.
- Be aware of your predisposition for blood clots as measures can easily be taken to prevent them.
- Enlist the help of friends and loved ones. They might be able to ask questions you haven’t considered or be able to help you make decisions when faced with difficult choices. Additionally, medications might sedate or impair your thinking, so it is a good idea to have someone who is helping to look out for you.
- If having a surgical procedure done on certain body part, for example a knee, mark the knee that is supposed to be operated on and mark the other knee so that they know it is not the correct one.
- Be aware of shift changes between nurses and make sure that all medication dosages and other pertinent information are passed along to the new shift.
- Make sure that everyone has washed their hands or used hand sanitizer before interacting with you in order to reduce the risk of spreading bacteria that could cause infection.
- Be nice! Being a good patient can help make the staff more attentive and willing to help.