If You Have to Go to the Hospital
When you need to go to the hospital, you usually just go to your local community
hospital. You might receive satisfactory care. However, a report by
The Institute of Medicine revealed
that each year as many as 100,000 Americans die in hospitals from medical errors.
A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
study of Medicare patients found that one in seven suffered serious injuries or
died as a result of hospital care. Some authorities suggest that the problem is
even bigger because a recent report found that hospital staff did not report 86
percent of harm done to patients.
In a recent study published in the
Journal Health Affairs,
researchers examined patient charts at three of America's leading hospitals and
found that one in three admissions included some type of harm to the patient.
Mistakes range from a nurse who administers a toxic dose of medicine, a surgeon
nicks a blood vessel, a Surgery on the wrong patient or the wrong part of a patient,
to failure to disinfect a room and patient contracts a drug-resistant infection.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
study found that less than half of hospital workers follow hand-washing guidelines
despite training and ubiquitous hand sanitizer dispensers. Blood stream infections
as a result of inserting a tube into a vein to deliver medication result in 30,000
The article "The Worst Place to Be If Your Sick" in the March 2012 issue ofAARP
Bulletin stated, "The number of patients who die each year from preventable hospital
errors is equal to four full jumbo jets crashing each week. If airline tragedies of
that magnitude were accuring with such frequency, no one would tolerate the loss."
Part of the problem lies in the enormous complexity of medicine. There arenow 13,600
diagnoses, 6,000 drugs, and 4,000 medical and surgical procedures. And hospitals are
busy places, you cannot assume that people in the hospital know who you are or why
You can go to the
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
website to Compare treatment options for different health conditions. You can go to
to learn how a particular hospital scores when it comes to treating certain medical conditions.
Teaching hospitals like Massachusetts General Hospital, Johns Hopkins Hospital,
Mayo Clinic, and Stanford Hospital and Clinics, play a role in training medical
students and residents. Students and residents can "learn by doing" because they're
involved directly in patient care, always under the supervision of an attending
physician. These hospitals are always involved in research so they have medical
researchers on staff that can deal with unusual and complicated cases.
How to Protect Yourself During a Hospital Stay
Considering the propensity for errors and the prevalence of contamination in the
typical hospital, as a patient, you have an important role to play in making sure
things are done properly.
• Bring a notebook and write down all your medications, the dosage, who prescribed them, and why you take them.
• Write down the name of your attending physician and the names of any attending staff.
• Write down all important phone numbers - those of family members and your primary care doctor.
• write down any questions you have, and don't hesitate to request a meeting with your doctor.
• Bring a big package of disposable sanitary wipes and put it by your bed to remind staff to use them.
• A medial patient advocate reviews diagnoses, treatment options,
medical records and test reports, monitor the patient at the bedside in a hospital,
and they may accompany a patient to appointments. Sometimes the hospital provides a person called a patient
advocate, but this person is more to protect the hospital than the patient. There are
agencies that provide volunteer patient advocates. You can also hire your own patient advocate.
There are many organizations that provide patient advocate training and certification,
even at the Bachelors or Masters Level. Many patient advocates belong to the
Society for Healthcare Consumer Advocacy.
A searchable directory of patient advocates can be found at
For any serious hospital stay make sure you have a patient advocate.