How to Survive a Hospital Stay by Minimizing Medical Errors


A hospital stay is usually stressful because we are worried about the diagnosis that brought us there in the first place. Now we need to add another layer of worry. So-called “preventable harm” incidents kill more than 1000 people a day. This is the third of three posts discussing ways to survive a hospital stay. This one focuses on how to survive a hospital stay by minimizing medical errors, the first is for those acting as the patient advocate, and the second is from the patient’s perspective.

A recent study published in the Journal of Patient Safety and reproduced here by estimates more than 440,000 patients die from medical errors every year. That means thousands and thousands of people are dying from something other than what brought them to the hospital in the first place.

This great article from Psychology Today lists top their ten errors:

  1. Misdiagnosis (which can lead to the wrong treatment or no treatment at all.)
  2. Unnecessary treatments (make sure to ask questions about every treatment prescribed with emphasis on the purpose of the treatment, the risks, and the desired outcome.)
  3. Unnecessary tests (according to the Healthcare Economist, we spend $700B a year on unnecessary tests.)
  4. Medication errors (it is vital to communicate with all health providers about medications prescribed and to verify that you are receiving the correct medication. 1.5M patients are harmed by medication errors every year.)
  5. Never events (which should never happen but continue to do so – removing the wrong limb, operating on the wrong patient, etc.)
  6. Uncoordinated care (another symptom of our disconnected health providers. Remember to keep a journal and note conversations with all providers for review.)
  7. Infections (one hundred thousand people die every year from infections acquired in the hospital. Politely but firmly require everyone in your room to wash their hands.)
  8. Accidents (these include falls, malfunctioning equipment, and other preventable events.)
  9. Missed warning signs (you know best what is happening to your body. If something feels wrong, say something.)
  10. Going home too early (many patients are re-admitted to the hospital within 30 days of being released. Make sure you understand your release instructions, medication and other recovery details.)

While hospitals obviously do not desire to have these types of event occur, they still have a long way to go. As patients and patient advocates, need to be aware of the risks and take any precautions we can.

Happy Organizing!

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