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Patients Can Help Make Care Safer

Patients and their families can help ensure that safe, appropriate care is delivered. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Caregivers should identify themselves and explain any treatment or action to be taken. Be sure you know what medications you are being given and what they are for. If something doesn’t seem correct, ask.

Providing high quality care to every patient in a safe environment is the goal of all hospitals and a daily focus of their activities. Hospitals are highly regulated by federal and state governments, and their oversight makes sure that hospitals follow accepted safety and quality standards. The Texas Department of State Health Services licensees hospitals for a two-year period, and investigates all complaints promptly. During regular inspections of health care facilities, the Medicare program and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations evaluate records and procedures to be sure that the performance improvement process is working. Failure to comply with standards can result in loss of accreditation and inability to participate in the Medicare program, fines or even loss of license.

Hospitals and other health care providers have long been involved in ensuring patient safety through performance improvement activities:

  • Various multidisciplinary committees oversee critical departments within the hospital or other health care facility. Physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health professionals participate in these committees, with the goal of identifying problems and making corrections before an error occurs.
  • Physicians and nurses participate in peer review of their practice. The goal of these activities is to determine if there is a problem with a licensed professional’s performance, and if so, the appropriate next steps to remedy it. While the licensing board may take action related to the individual's license, facilities also have some recourse. Health care facilities may restrict or suspend a physician's clinical privileges. A hospital or ambulatory surgery center may take disciplinary action against an employee – a nurse, technician, therapist, etc. – ranging from mandatory education or increased supervision to discharge.
  • Hospitals and ASCs accredited by the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations perform root cause analyses on unexpected events/outcomes and may report their finding to the Joint Commission. Through the Joint Commission, best practices to enhance patient safety are shared among hospitals across the country.

Consumers and purchasers have a right to expect quality health care and effective public reporting of performance indicators. Hospitals support public disclosure, and are dedicated to accomplishing it in a meaningful way.  Numerous Web sites offer quality information on hospitals. In addition, two government-sponsored sites offer good resources and data are analyzed using proven methodologies.

These resources may help you be a better patient and receive the best care possible:

What You Can Do to Make Health Care Safer – A Consumer Fact Sheet
The National Patient Safety Foundation discusses how patients can ensure a safer experience with the health care system.

Safety as You Go from Hospital to Home
The National Patient Safety Foundation offers tips for ensuring patient safety at home, as you make the transition from the hospital.

Post Discharge Tool
The National Patient Safety Foundation provides a handy reference guide to help patients avoid readmission, as well as tips on how to prepare for discharge from the hospital.

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