We need to be helping patients and certainly our family and friends to make good decisions about their medical care. I once had a family member who selected the hospital for his abdominal aortic aneurysm repair based on the hospital menu and the length of the hallway from the front door to the room that he would likely be admitted to. Oh, and he also liked the wall paper. I learned of these factors in his decision after he was admitted. After he had surgery, the nurse in the post-anesthesia care unit while talking with me on the telephone asked if I knew what she should be watching for since she had never taken care of a patient with an abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.
Some of things we need to educate patients, family, and friends about are as follows:
- They need to ask about the nurse: patient ratio – it is important for them to know that the number of patients per nurse can have a significant impact on not only their recovery but on their survival. If you have questions about this read my previous blog post on “Are You At Risk To Have A Medical Assistant Take You Job?”
- They need to ask if the hospital and physician have experience with their particular diagnosis – This includes asking if the hospital has a specialized team of health care providers that works with this diagnosis, such as a cardiac team, how often the procedure they need is done at this hospital, and the patient outcomes for this procedure at this hospital. That would have been a great question for my family member to ask before being admitted to the hospital.
- They should ask a family member, good friend, or other trusted person to be present in the hospital as much as possible – With fewer nurses per patient it is more important than ever to have an observer and advocate present in the hospital. While it doesn’t seem right that the burden of care is often left to unpaid, and untrained family caregivers this seems to be the reality in most of today’s hospitals.
- They should know what their medications looks like – medication errors do occur in hospitals. Patients should know what their medications look like and why and when they are taking each medication. If something doesn’t look right, they should say so. They should also be sure to understand at discharge which medications they should be continuing to take and if they should be taking the medications they were on before coming to the hospital including vitamins and supplements.
As we help our patients, family and friends become better health care consumers we can help them to have better outcomes.