California penalizes hospitals for preventable errors, through the only program of its kind in the nation. But the program has failed to make a significant difference in curbing mistakes, the Union Tribune reports. UT reporter Paul Sisson has some excellent tips on how YOU can protect yourself when seeking medical care:
“* ALTERNATIVES: Inquire about better alternatives to the procedure you’ve been recommended. Visit choosingwisely.org for information about which treatments may be unnecessary.
* HIGH VOLUME: Choose a hospital, whenever possible, that performs a high volume of the procedure you need to undergo. Studies show such places and physicians tend to have better outcomes for that procedure.
* VACCINATIONS: Verify that your vaccinations are up to date before you’re admitted to the hospital.
* CURRENT MEDICATIONS: Tell your doctor, nurse, pharmacist and anyone else involved in your care about what medications you’re taking. Arrive at the hospital with your full list of drugs and be honest about any other self-medication. That includes dietary supplements, vitamins, herbs and recreational drugs.
* ALLERGIC REACTIONS: List any medications you shouldn’t take because of reasons such as allergic reactions or other known adverse outcomes.
* LABELING: Make sure all medicines you receive in the hospital — including through syringes, tubes, bags and pill bottles — have labels. Don’t be afraid to read these labels to see if they match what your physician prescribed.
* HAND-WASHING: Ask caregivers to wash their hands before they tend to you, if they haven’t done so. Unwashed hands are a main way of spreading infection in hospitals.
* CHECKLISTS: Find out whether your surgeon uses a checklist for your operation. Research shows that such checklists, even simple ones that include steps for preventing infection, can significantly lessen the error rate.
* SURGERY SITE: Confirm with nurses, imaging technicians, anesthesiologists and your doctor that they have correctly identified the part of your body targeted for a procedure. For example, all of your caregivers should agree on which kidney, knee or arm is slated for surgery. One common step is for the surgeon to sign his/her name on the area targeted for surgery.
* CATHETERS: Request an update each day on when your central-line or urinary catheter can be removed. Studies show that catheters, a prime source of infection, are often left in place long after they’re no longer needed.
* BEFORE YOU LEAVE: Go over all medication instructions before leaving the hospital.
* ASK AWAY: Ask as many questions as you need. If you don’t understand something your caregivers are about to do, speak up. Doctors, nurses and others should take action based on your consent.”