Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take Care in the Hospital

Hospitals save lives but the people who administer treatment to sick people aren’t infallible. According to a study by healthcare rating company HealthGrades, up to 195,000 patients die each year in U.S. hospitals because of medical errors. Here are some tips that you or family members can follow to stay safe.

Make sure you have a list of prescribed medications with dosages. You can get a list from the attending physician. When you’re given a pill or intravenous (IV) bag, ask what you’re being given and check to see that it’s on your list of prescription medication. It’s healthy to be curious without undermining the authority of the physicians trying to treat you. Ask them to explain what each medication does and double-check that the drug provider knows your name and birthday.

Some drug names have similar spellings – make sure you are getting the right prescription.

If you are having an organ or limb removed, write on the correct appendage “this one”, to ensure there is no confusion in the operating room.

Inform the doctor or nursing staff if you are allergic to any medication and make a note to this effect by your bed.

Avoid elective surgery in July when interns, residents and medical school students start their assignments at teaching hospitals. If you do get an intern or resident and they want to perform a common hospital task, ask them how many times they have done this task before.

Establish a rapport with the medical staff. Take a friendly interest in them and they will be more likely to do the same for you.

Save questions for your attending physician as answers received from other medical staff are less likely to be definitive. Avoid having an unlicensed assisting personnel or nurse assistant insert an IV or catheter or change a sterile dressing. If you don’t see a name tag identifying the person’s role, ask them what their training is.

Unless it is emergency surgery, you shouldn’t necessarily settle for the first doctor offered.
Find out if they are board certified using website – the American Board of Medical Specialists. Registration is required but free.

Ask the doctor how many times they have performed the procedure. Ideally, advises David Sherer, MD, you would want a doctor who has done the operation hundreds if not thousands of times; if it is a rare procedure, then at least 12 times per year.

Find the right hospital using the assistance of guides such as “America’s Best Hospital Guide” published by US News and World Report or access its website and click “Best Hospitals”. Note that your health insurance may limit your hospital and doctor options.

Before you need one, ask your doctor which emergency room in your area he considers best, although consider that in an emergency, the closest one available may be your best bet.

Let the doctor know how you feel. If a procedure causes you pain, shortness of breath, lose feeling or makes you lightheaded, it is important to express yourself.

Encourage bedside visitors so more people can keep an eye on hospital staff and so hospital staff k now that you’re well looked after.

Inform anesthesiologists of lose teeth that could be knocked out during intubation when a breathing tube is inserted in your throat. Also ask the doctor about removing dentures or artificial teeth before you are taken to the operating room

If you protect your health it may just mean your life, and you’ll be around to build a stronger business.

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