Monday, April 8, 2013


According to AARP hospitals are "the worst place to be if you're sick." Each year as many as 100,000 Americans die in hospitals from preventable medical mistakes. Although 10 years has passed since a sustained effort to reduce hospital errors, the number of deaths continue. A report released in January of 2012 found that hospital staff did not report " . . . a whopping 86% of harms done to patients". It seems that the human natures of denial and rationalization, as well as covering one's own butt, is a significant barrier to reducing hospital errors and the deaths that result from them. Indeed, one study of Medicare patients found that 1 in 7 patients died or were harmed by their hospital care. Incredibly, the number of patients who die each year from hospital errors is equal to 4 jumbo jets crashing each week. To protect yourself from such errors: 1) Bring an advocate, a friend or family member with you, especially for check in and discharge. It is important that the hospitals have a specific idea of what the signs and symptoms the patient is admitted with and sometimes the patient is not the best historian. Likewise, at discharge, the patient may be under medication or so anxious to leave the hospital that they do not fully comprehend their discharge instructions. 2) Bring a notebook to the hospital with you with a list of all your medications, why you take them and the name of the doctor who prescribed them. Include phone numbers of key physicians and medical contacts. If you have a cell phone bring it with you to the hospital. Also, use this notebook while you are in the hospital if questions come up, so you can write them down and remember to ask your doctor when he or she visits with you. 3) Bring a big bottle of hand sanitizer to the hospital. Put it by your bed to remind you and the staff to keep hands clean. Even today, most hospital infections are due to physician and nurse failures to wash their hands between patients. A recent study showed that one of the most contaminated items in a hospital is the cloth curtain that physicians, nurses and family members pull around the patient's bed to create privacy. Although they may look clean, along with toilet handles and taps, these cloth curtains are the most infected items in your hospital environment. 4) Finally, do not be shy. Do not assume that each of your doctors and nurses remembers your particular case. They may see 20 to 30 patients in a day and they may become confused about which patient has what. It is better to risk offending your doctor or your nurse by reminding them of why you are in the hospital and what care you are receiving, than to say nothing and suffer an injury as a result of that. Although the attorneys of Charfoos & Christensen, P.C. spend their professional lives representing patients injured by physicians, hospitals and nurses, we are even more committed to the prevention of injuries because a lawsuit only provides money after an injury has occurred.

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