You trust your doctor, but accidents and mix-ups can happen. Did you know there’s an organization dedicated to creating a world where patients and those who care for them are free from harm?
The National Patient Safety Foundation® (NPSF) partners with patients and families, the health care community, and key stakeholders to advance patient safety as well as health care workforce safety. The organization shares information and best practices with these groups to impact policies and drive innovation.
March 12-18 is Patient Safety Awareness Week this year. The NPSF explains in its press release that as many as 440,000 patients die each year as a result of preventable medical harm. To put that in perspective, that’s more people than die from stroke (133,000+), but fewer than die from cancer (591,000+), according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Preventable medical harm also affects many others who suffer significant morbidity as well as issues that can impact their quality of life.
When you go to the doctor, you don’t want to become a bad statistic. Take ownership of your experience and actively participate in the choices being made. Make the most of your appointments by listening carefully, asking questions, and making sure you understand any instructions you are given for self-care.
You should have a list of all doctors who are treating you and you should know your medical history. Health care providers ask a lot of questions, so be prepared to provide answers so you can get the best care. You can check out tips for doctor visits on our website for more information on this.
A major part of improving patient safety is preventing medical errors. These errors can involve medications, surgery, diagnoses, equipment, lab reports, and more. Often, errors occur due to a lack of good communication. What can you do to help prevent medical errors? Again, be involved! If you have questions or concerns, speak up. You have the right to question anyone involved with your care. A good doctor-patient relationship can really help here. If you’re not comfortable asking questions, ask a family member or friend to go along with you to the doctor’s office or hospital. Make sure this person knows your wishes for your care.
Despite all their good work, organizations like the NPSF are not able to sit with you in your doctor’s office. You are ultimately responsible for your health care and your safety. Asking questions, sharing health information with your provider, and being actively involved in your care are vital to helping limit mistakes and to reducing unnecessary procedures or treatments. Learn as much as you can about your health condition(s) so you can ask informed questions. From organizations and health insurers to doctors and nurses, there are a lot of people on your side, so be involved and be safe!