Sunday, November 4, 2012

Patient Safety in the Hospital Near You

Patient safety in the hospital has become an important issue.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 180,000 patients die every year from hospital mistakes, accidents and infections.  An additional 1.4 million people are seriously harmed during their hospital stay.  Although we will never be able to completely eliminate hospital errors, there are steps that can be taken to minimize them.

How to Find the Safest Hospital in Your Community

Your first step will be to locate the safest hospital in your area, and then select physicians who are affiliated with that hospital.  There are several websites that rank hospital safety:

When I entered the local hospitals in my area into, I discovered that the ones where I am most likely to be taken were all given a rating of "A."  That was a relief, because there were a number of hospitals in my county that had a rating of "C" and "B."  One even had a score of "F."  Hospital Safety Score rates a number of items including the hospital's computerized prescriber order entry system, hand hygiene, care of ventilated patients, correct antibiotic use, frequency of incidents in which a foreign object was left in a surgical patient and accidental cuts or tears from medical treatment. 

When I searched the database for local hospitals on, I was able to compare my local hospitals and look for differences in issues such as readmission  or death rates for heart attack and pneumonia patients, number of heart attack patients given aspirin or fibrinolytic medication upon arrival, and the results of patient surveys.

Armed with this information, I felt much more confident in the hospitals I may need to use in the future.

How to Prevent Infections and Mistakes During Your Hospital Stay

No matter how your local hospital rates, you and your loved ones can also do a few things to improve patient outcomes.  If you are the patient or the close relative of a patient, you need to do everything you can to reduce the risk of mistakes and injuries during a hospital stay.  Even though you are dependent on the medical staff for major activities, such as treatment during surgery, you can still remain proactive and take some responsibility for the quality of your care.  Here are some steps you can take:

You may be in pain, but try to be pleasant.  You are more likely to receive better care and quicker attention if you and your relatives obey hospital rules and treat all staff members like they are friends, not enemies.

Politely ask everyone to wash their hands ... your visitors as well as the hospital staff, including doctors, nurses and aides.

Be observant of your bandages.  Make sure they cover any wounds or incisions and that the bandages are kept clean and changed regularly.

Follow pre-op and post-op instructions carefully.  Take antibiotics as directed and take the full amount of the prescribed medicine.  Ask a family member to be with you when you are given the instructions so that someone else, who has not been on anesthesia, knows exactly what you should and should not do.

Pay attention if you will be using a catheter or other medical device. Be certain that you and a family member both know how to use it correctly.

Wash your own hands before you touch a wound, bandage, catheter or other device.  Your immune system will be weakened after surgery or a major health event.  Don't challenge it even more.

If you follow all these steps in choosing a high quality hospital and taking personal responsibility for your care, your patient safety in the hospital should not be a major problem.

What to do If You Think Something is Wrong After a Hospital Stay

Pay attention to how you are feeling during the next two weeks after surgery or a hospital stay. If you begin to feel worse, develop a fever, start vomiting or experience other unexpected symptoms, call your doctor immediately.

If you had surgery and the area around your incision begins to look worse, becomes swollen or hot to the touch, has an unexpected discharge, or red streaks begin to extend out from it, you should also call your physician.  It may have become infected.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as we age, changing family relationships, where to retire or financial planning, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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  1. I like your suggestion that we take charge of our own hospital safety. It wouldn't have been possible even 15 years ago to easily obtain the information about safe hospitals in our communities. How fortunate we are!

  2. This article is very interesting! Medical practice covers a huge areas like hospital errors, misdiagnosis, surgical errors, nursing home injuries etc and each of them may require different questioning or fact finding methods before a certain claim can be proven. New York medical malpractice attorney

  3. Thanks for posting this info. I just want to let you know that I just check out your site and I find it very interesting and informative. I can't wait to read lots of your posts. malpractice law firm


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