The Harris poll rated health care settings as slightly more dangerous than airplanes and the workplace and slightly safer than nuclear power plants. Many were speaking from personal experience. The results reflected that 40 percent of US adults have been involved personally or through a friend or relative with a medical accident or mistake while in a hospital as a patient. This is supported by the results of Lucian Leape, MD, of the Institute for Health Care Improvement at the Harvard School of Public Health, which says that errors or accidents may harm up to 20 percent of hospitalized patients. This totals a staggering three million separate incidents a year at a total annual cost of $200 billion.
The best way to avert errors when you are admitted to the hospital can be summarized in two words: Speak Up!
It may be a cliché that health care should be collaboration between patient and doctor–but it’s no where truer than in a hospital. Many people are intimidated by complex hospital routines that they stay out of the way. But any doctor or nurse will tell you: The hospital is one place where it definitely pays to be involved and assertive. Ask questions about any thing you don’t understand. Be polite, be pleasant, and be persistent. Try to understand the purpose and schedule of every medication or test you are given. Drug allergies may have been missed. Have personnel identify themselves before you take your medicine or are wheeled off for a test that you haven’t been expecting. Always ask what it’s for. If you’re too shy, recruit a friend or relative to be your advocate who will ask the questions for you.
Remember the organ removed or the amputated leg can never be restored. The life that is lost can never be reclaimed.