Become a More Active Member of Your Health Care Team

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By Patricia Wells, program director, Family-Centered Care, Department of Pediatrics

In a story about patient safety concerns that was released last week by Hearst Newspapers, the reporter discussed how hospitals are "slow to adopt life-saving practices." The statistics are startling and the solutions seem clear cut, but the fact remains that caring for patients in a busy hospital or medical center is stressful and complex, and even the best hospitals fall short.

Every hospital stay is managed by a team of professionals, but the most important member of your health care team is YOU, the patient and your family.  

Patients and family members who become active partners in health care can help prevent medical errors. In 2002, the Joint Commission launched the national "Speak Up" initiative to urge patients to take a role in preventing health care errors by becoming active, involved and informed participants on the health care team.

Here are a few simple things you can do as you become a more active member of your own health care team:

•    Ask questions. Every question about your health is important. If you still don't understand, ask again.
•    Write down your concerns and take them with you to your doctor visits. Keep a diary or journal of how you're feeling.
•    Know your medications. Whether you are home or in the hospital, know your medications -- the names and what they do. Every time a physician writes a prescription or a nurse brings in a medication, ask what it is and what it's for.
•    Know who is entering your hospital room. Know the members of your health care team -- who they are and what they do.

While it's clear that advances like electronic prescription pads, bar-coded patient ID bracelets and electronic medical records will be an important step in helping reduce hospital errors, nothing takes the place of your active participation in your own health.


More tips on Surviving your hospital stay (CNN)

The Joint Commission Speak Up initiative

AARP My Personal Medication Record

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