Like any human, even the most dedicated caregiver can have a bad day - or maybe just one careless moment. But in the health care environment, the consequences of even a momentary lapse can be serious or even fatal - a patient could receive the wrong medication, the wrong test, the wrong procedure - or not receive the care ordered by a doctor.
Nothing can substitute - nor should it - for alert and mindful caregivers, but there are steps patients can take to partner with their caregivers to help ensure they receive the care they need. The Patient Safety Initiative, the Joint Commission and the National Council on Patient Information and Education, along with many other organizations, encourage patients to actively partner with caregivers to ensure their safety.
Provide A Thorough Health History
Be sure to provide detailed information, including allergies, medications you take (prescription and over-the-counter) and operations and procedures you have had. Download a medication card, update it and bring it with you to every doctor appointment and whenever you come to the hospital.
Identify Yourself to Every Caregiver, Every Time
Each time a new staff person comes to give you medication or treatment, greet them and tell them your name. Ask them to tell you their name and to explain what the procedure is, who ordered it and what to expect from it. If the information is different than you expect, alert the staff member immediately and request an explanation.
Question Unfamiliar Medications
If you don't recognize a medication being given to you, ask the caregiver to check it out before accepting it.
Don't hesitate to ask about your care, your condition or your treatment options.
Double-check With Your Care Team
If you are having surgery, make sure that you, your doctor and your surgeon all agree and are clear on exactly what will be done. Doing surgery at the wrong site (for example, operating on the left knee instead of the right) is rare. But with good communication, wrong-site surgery is 100 percent preventable.
Help Reduce the Possibility of Infection
Indiana University Health policy requires caregivers to wash their hands or use alcohol hand gel before and after touching patients. Don't be afraid to check with your caregivers to make sure they have done so. Likewise, you should be sure to wash your own hands and keep any wounds clean and dry. Ask your family and visitors to do the same.
Learn About Safe Care at Home
Be sure you know how to care for yourself safely when you return home, and be sure your at-home caregiver knows, too.
Learn more about your rights (and responsibilities) as a patient at IU Health hospitals.