Think you can be a patient in the
hospital without an advocate? Think Again.
If you're sick enough to be a patient in the hospital, then you certainly cannot oversee and monitor your own medical care while you are there. And monitoring your medications, treatments and procedures to prevent medical errors, has become essential. An average of 195,000 people in the US die each year due to medical errors in hospitals.
Protect Yourself and Plan Ahead -
Hospital stays, either our own or our loved ones', are not what any of us wants to think about. But prevention and planning ahead is key to our health and safety. Talk to your family members and good friends and create a "buddy system." Ask someone you trust who has the time and inclination to be your advocate and offer to be theirs in exchange.
1. How to choose the best advocate for you. Your loved one who acts as your advocate will be your watchdog to oversee and monitor your medical care while you are a patient in the hospital. This person should have these qualities:
-able to speak up and ask questions in a polite manner
-will get involved
-attentive to details
-willing to write things down
- willing to do some research
2. Patient Checklist. Ask your advocate to create a patient checklist with your full name, birth date, list of medications and dosages, allergies to medications, current illnesses, current diagnosis, dietary restrictions, primary physician's name and contact information.
This checklist will be placed in your chart and repeated by your advocate each time you are treated by a new medical professional or are transferred to another area of the hospital.
3. Notebook Notes. Ask your advocate to take notes in a notebook on your daily progress, conversations with physicians and primary nurses, medications, treatments and procedures. Notebook Notes will also include medical professionals' names and contact information.
3. Monitoring Your Medications. Medication errors injure 1.5 million people every year. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=11623
Since medication mistakes are the most common medical errors, keeping track of all medications administered to you in the hospital is essential. Ask your advocate to keep an eye on any medication that looks new or different and to ask questions in a polite and respectful manner if something appears out of the ordinary. Repeating your allergies to medications upon entry into the operating room or when meeting a new nurse or new physician may feel repetitive but is in fact an important part of keeping you safe and healthy.
Listing medications and their dosages with descriptions of pills, medication bottles and labels, will be placed in Notebook Notes. Medication names can look alike and sound alike. Ask your advocate to be sure you are receiving the correct medication.
4. Conversations with Physicians and Primary Nurses. Ask your advocate to show up during doctors rounds and conduct face-to-face communications with these medical professionals. Your advocate should prepare a written list of questions and concerns before these meetings.
- What is wrong with my loved one?
- What is your plan of treatment?
- What do you expect as a result of the treatment plan?
- Which medications are you giving my loved one? What are they for? Are you also giving my loved one the same, exact medications he or she receives while at home?
- Does my loved one have any dietary restrictions?
- Who are the other doctors involved in my loved one's case? Which one is in charge of the patient's care?
- What is the best way to reach you?
5. A Disease Free Hospital Stay. Ask your advocate to make a request of everyone to wash their hands. A sign can be placed on the wall above your bed that asks everyone to wash their hands before touching you. A container of antibacterial gel can be placed on your bedside table for everyone to use if your hospital room isn't equipped with one.
6. An Involved Advocate. Your advocate must get involved in your care. This includes:
-Establishing a personal relationship with each primary nurse who takes care of you.
-Establishing a personal relationship with each physician who treats you.
-Expressing gratitude to each medical professional who is involved in your care.
-Asking questions about anything you or your advocate does not understand.
-Requesting a second opinion if you are not improving or if you or your advocate are unsure about the diagnosis or treatment plan.
By Martine Ehrenclou
Author of Critical Conditions: The Essential Hospital Guide To Get Your Loved One Out Alive