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Tips to help you avoid harm while hospitalized

Most of us have faith in the medical professionals who are caring for us. Even if you don't fully trust them, it's not feasible to look over the shoulder of every person involved in your care when you go to the hospital.

But you can't let your guard down. You need to take steps to ensure that you are getting the care that you need and that won't harm you because medical malpractice in the hospital is a serious concern. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe the next time you need treatment.

Involve a trusted person in your care

Asking someone you trust to be involved in your medical care can help you to learn about potential issues. When you are stressed or in pain, doctor consults and medical treatment can be overwhelming. It is difficult to remember everything, to good questions and to advocate for yourself.

Your companion can help you to take notes about what everyone says regarding your care. Those notes could help ask the right questions, or later identify discrepancies in what you are told and what happens. Make sure that the provider's name is included in the notes so that you can say things like, "Dr. Brown told me that I'm not going to take this medicine for two days to see how my body reacts."

Double-check medications

Don't take any medicine without double-checking it. Make sure that the pill or liquid looks like the one you are used to taking. If it is unfamiliar, ask the name and what it is for. Keep a log of when you are taking medications to ensure they are being given on the right schedule. If you have any concerns about medications, speak up. Your doctor or pharmacist should know about possible side effects and possible contraindications (such as allergies or cross-reactions with other drugs.

Ask plenty of questions

Ask questions about everything involved in your care. Find out why you need to have specific procedures done. Ask what your options are when you are given a plan. Discuss the side effects of medications and treatments before you accept them. Being informed is a big step toward remaining safe while you are hospitalized.

Watch what the care providers do

The first thing that everyone who comes into your room should do is to wash their hands. This is a major deterrent for infections and diseases being spread from one patient to another.

Also, pay attention to how specific aspects of your care are handled. For example:

  • Does the nurse wipe your arm with an alcohol pad before giving you a shot?
  • Are you receiving proper hygiene for your condition?
  • Are you being helped to the bathroom if you are considered a fall risk?
  • Do you have the call button readily available to contact a nurse if you need something?
  • Are the people handling your care responsive to your needs?

If you do suffer harm at the hospital, you might have grounds to seek compensation through a medical malpractice lawsuit. Your notes and your trusted friend's notes could be valuable to your case.

Source:  20 tips to help prevent medical errors (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality)

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