The study results released today by the Office of the Inspector General of the DHHS about Medicare patients is very disturbing. ONE IN SEVEN medicare hospital inpatients suffered harm because of medical error/or infection. This is huge. It is unacceptable and it is a big secret from most unsuspecting patients being admitted to the hospital. Although half of our States have mandated reporting for medical error, not even all of those accurately report medical errors/hospital acquired infections.
How do we change this? First of all we make them report it. Mandatory public reporting of medical error and hospital acquired infections is a must. Without transparency and accountability, there will be no change. Mistakes and deadly infections will continue to be swept under that dirty rug and paltry investments in prevention will continue. Second, we support improved staffing at our local facilities. Safe staffing equals safer patients. Third, we pressure our legislators to support any and all Safe Patient legislation, including prevention legislation,reporting legislation, patients rights legislation and informed consent legislation.
At the recent Consumers Union Safe Project summit, ad campaigns to educate people who are entering the hospital were discussed. Having blind trust in our hospitals and doctors and other caregivers is a very naive way to conduct one’s self when hospitalized. Educate yourself about your condition and help others who cannot do that for themselves. Ask if the surgery/treatment/medications are necessary and if there are alternatives. Get second opinions. Check out your Doctor’s history and experience. Ask for your hospitals record on medical error and infections. Finally take a patient advocate with you. If you will be impaired physically and/or mentally because of your surgery or medical condition, ask a trusted loved one or friend to be your advocate. Don’t sign your consent for treatment or surgical procedure until you are perfectly clear on all the risks, including infections. Carry a journal for yourself or your advocate to use to document who visited you in the hospital and for what reason, list your medications, etc. And make sure all of your caregivers, and visitors are washing their hands before touching you.
Don’t count on your hospital to do it all for you….as much as you would like that. Take a stand for yourself or your loved one. Be prepared and educated. You will be safer because of it.