Three things immediately come to mind that every patient can do to improve the odds of a safe hospitalization.
First, when circumstances allow, do some research before selecting a hospital. Several years ago, I was doing some focus groups on a brain injury case in Houston, Texas. The focus group expert made a comment during a break that really stuck in my mind. He said that study after study shows that most patients select a hospital based on which one is closest to their home.
When there is an emergency, ambulance crews are typically required to take the patient to the nearest hospital with the appropriate capabilities. For elective procedures, though, patients can choose their hospital.
A good place to start is Medicare’s Hospital Compare website, which you can access here. I also recommend doing an Internet search for lawsuits and quality of care concerns.
Second, I recommend having a family member or friend with a hospitalized patient 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from admission through discharge. Sick patients or those recovering from surgical procedures are often unable to participate in their care in a meaningful way. Having a friend or family member with you to act as an advocate, ask questions, get answers, and be the “squeaky wheel getting the grease” is always a good idea.
Third, keep a health journal of key things that happen in the hospital. The goals are to make sure that nothing falls through the cracks and that family and friends rotating in and out of the hospital are kept in the loop. If a doctor mentions ordering a test, jot that down and then remember to follow up when the test isn’t done, or to get the results. If a health care provider explains the plan for treatment or makes comments about what’s going on with the patient, write that down, too. If you have a question, make a note of it so it’s not forgotten the next time the doctor comes into the room.
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Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas.