Healthcare today is very effective – and unfortunately not always as safe as it could be. Research indicates up to 440,000 Americans die each year from preventable errors in hospitals. That statistic places medical errors as the third leading cause of death in the country.

This is why a Spokesperson for a hospitalized patient is so important. This person may be a family member or close friend who helps ensure patient care is safe, understood, and in alignment with the goals for the patient. The truth is – you know your loved one better than anyone else in the hospital and are an essential part of the healthcare team!

Common mishaps in hospitals include bedsores, medication errors, infections, and patient falls. The good news is these often can be prevented with better communication. Here are some ways a Spokesperson for the patient can do that:

Speak up!  Asking questions provides insight into something that may otherwise be overlooked. Remember, you know the patient and their current situation better than caregivers who provide episodic and specialized treatments or care. Being proactive and anticipating a problem before it happens also helps keep the patient comfortable and safe. Spokespersons are not “pushy” or demanding, but assertive and inquisitive. Here are some examples of how to express your concern.

  • I am concerned he will fall if he gets a sleeping pill. He gets up to the bathroom often at night.
  • That breathing treatment made him very shaky – can it be changed to something else?
  • I am worried about her poor appetite. Can she get a supplement or talk with the dietitian about different food she might eat?
  • I know she will be happy to see you, but she just got to sleep after a very painful night. Can your visit be delayed an hour?
  • He threw up his lunch. Can we do something to prevent this before dinner arrives?
  • Physical Therapy is very painful for her. Can she have some pain medicine before therapy?
  • He does not understand why he needs this procedure. May we talk with the doctor?
  • He says his bottom area is getting sore. Is there something we can do to make that better?
  • Does the antibiotic contain penicillin? She is allergic to penicillin.
  • She is asking if you have the results of the x-ray done yet?

The next section will provide more insights and a printable list to help ensure your loved one gets the best care during hospitalization.  (See Part 2 Speaking up to Protect a Hospitalized Loved One

Hospital Errors are the Third Leading Cause of Death in U.S., and New Hospital Safety Scores Show Improvements Are Too Slow. (2013).!

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