This year alone, it is estimated that over 250,000 people will die in hospitals because of medical errors. And to top this astounding figure, almost half of patients have experienced a medical mistake to some degree in their life.
Is it really safe going to the hospital? It's a frightening question, especially when hospitals are supposed to help us, not hurt us.
I have been personally told by many doctors and nurses that it is better to get in and get out of hospitals as quick as possible to avoid getting more sick or picking up other germs that can lead to more serious conditions.
But what really shocked me the most, was the extent of the errors that occur at hospitals. Everything from wrong diagnosis, to mistaken treatments due to wrong prescriptions being filled out, to flat out incompetence.
Most of us take hospital care for granted, but because of incredibly fragmented record keeping, many patients are put into life-threatening situations because of lack of communication between doctors and pharmacists.
So, the logical question must be... What can I do to protect myself at the hospital?
If surgery is recommended, you want the best doctors that are available.
1. Make sure you receive the appropriate tests before surgery is performed. It has been reported that over 57,000 deaths could be prevented if this were done.
2. Get a second opinion to confirm diagnosis. Many patients have found that this second opinion has uncovered important information that was missed during the first exam.
Here are some questions you need to ask the doctor to cover yourself and give you the best chance to come out alive.
1. Are you experienced in this procedure?
You want to know not only how many times a doctor has performed this procedure but for how long.
2. Do you work with the same team?
Doctors who work with the same team give their patients a much better chance at recovery if the team is experienced together.
3. What is your recovery rate?
Your doctor should know this. If not, it is your right to know from his participating hospital.
4. What are the risks?
The doctor needs to be truthful in regards to risks. He should be able to define what your recovery will be like, how long it will take to make a full recovery, or even if you are expected to fully recover.
5. What are the ranges in ages of your patients?
You want to know if your doctor works on patients like you or is this case an extraordinary one for the doctor?
7. If he had to get this procedure, who would he get to operate?
If your doctor was in your shoes, who would he name? If he names someone at his own hospital, who would he name if no one was available at the hospital?
8. Is surgery really necessary?
Is it really needed? Or if you don't have the surgery, what will your quality of life be?
9. Can you perform my surgery as the first case in the morning?
This may be your most important question because a fatigued doctor may put your health at a distinct disadvantage. You want a fresh doctor who is alert and ready to operate.
Many of these questions are self explanatory but patients rarely ask. This puts them at greater risk.
It is also reported that over 150 million prescriptions require pharmacists to call back doctors for clarification. Whether it is because a pharmacist cannot read the doctor's handwriting, incompatibility to prescriptions patients are already taking, or patients allergic reactions to medications, mistakes seem to be the norm.
To combat this problem, patients (or a designated trustee) need to keep a daily log of any medications they have been given. Don't expect the hospital's records to be accurate.
Another problem that has made it difficult to get proper medical care is of how drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex could have been widely distributed for years without any health warnings being issued. But is now come to light that many patients have suffered needless heart attacks and strokes because the FDA let the drugs come to market without the proper amount of testing.
Learn about your condition and be up-to-date about procedures, complications, and medications that relate to you in order to make the proper decisions regarding your health.
You may think that this has nothing to do with your financial situation but it will loom large in your mind if it puts you in a financial hardship. If you cannot pay for the procedure, you may be limited with your options. This in turn may put you at a greater risk for sub-standard care.
A good mental attitude is required when getting hospital care. But you must be vigilant when it comes to care. Protect your health and it will protect you.