The Patient as Advocate

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Stand Up, Speak Up – Getting the Best Care for Yourself

Everyone has a role in providing the best health care for you – organizational executives, physicians, therapists, nurses and technicians. And, above all, YOU! You do this by becoming an active, informed, and involved consumer and member of the health care team.

Medical errors are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with almost 98,000 occurring annually according to the Institute of Medicine. The more involved we are, the less likely we are to have an adverse reaction. Ways to do this include:

  • SPEAKING UP if you have any questions or concerns, and ask again if you still dont understand. It is your body and you have the right to know.
  • PAY ATTENTION to the care you are receiving. Make sure you are getting the right medications, for instance. Don’t assume anything.
  • EDUCATE YOURSELF about your diagnosis, any medical tests or procedures you will have done, and be an active participant in determining your treatment plan.
  • ASK a trusted family member or friend to be an advocate for you that can ask questions you may not think of under stress, and may not remember the answers to.
  • KNOW what medications you take and why you take them. Know their side-effects, and how long the side-effects should last if you are just beginning a medication. Learn if there is anything you can do to alleviate the side-effects. Medication errors are the most common health care mistake.
  • PARTICIPATE in all decisions about your treatment. You are the center of the health care team.

After following these general rules, more specifically, try to:

  • Inform your doctors about medications your are taking, including prescriptions, over the counter drugs, and herbal or dietary supplements.
  • Inform your doctors about your allergies any any adverse reactions you may have experienced
  • Inform your doctors of any dietary restrictions you may have
  • Ask your staff for written information about possible side effects to your medications
  • Be an advocate of your own care. Ask your friend or relative to also be your patient advocate
  • Question your nurse, doctor, or pharmacist if your medications look different from the way they looked before, or if the number of medications is different
  • Learn about your condition by asking your doctor, nurse, therapist, or any other reliable sourse any questions you may have regarding your illness
  • Make sure that your prescriptions are legible
  • If you are in the hospital, when you are discharged if you have any questions regarding your treatment plan to be used at home, ask your doctors or staff for an explanation.
  • Finally, discuss any concerns you have with your caregiver in an assertive (not aggressive) manner.

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