According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), one in five adults say they’ve experienced a medical error. The majority of medical errors are 100 percent preventable – especially if patients and their caregivers speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

Your Health, Family Health | 16 days ago

Speak Up for Yourself and Your Family's Health

According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), one in five adults say they’ve experienced a medical error. The majority of medical errors are 100 percent preventable – especially if patients and their caregivers speak up when something doesn’t seem right.

We’ve all heard the stories of major medical errors – from a patient who has a medical instrument left in their body after a routine surgery to the misdiagnosis of a serious illness. But did you know that the majority of medical errors occur because of more routine things? In fact, a medical error can be anything from miscommunication between a patient and doctor, to not properly following medication instructions, to an infection that occurs due to improper hand hygiene.

Speak Up to Stay Safe

Linda Martin, an Atrium Health patient, shares some advice on how she advocates for herself whether she is visiting her regular primary care doctor, meeting with a specialist to discuss a new diagnosis or is experiencing an illness that requires a hospital stay.

1. Be prepared

“I keep a list of all of the medicines I am taking or have taken in my phone since I know this is the first thing my doctor will ask about,” says Linda. “Depending on what type of appointment it is, I also make sure to understand what is and isn’t covered in my health plan.”

Being prepared and informed will help you get the most out of the visit with your doctor. Having all of your information in order and a list of any questions or concerns about your health will help your doctor to have a better understanding and recommend a more informed treatment plan.

2. Ask questions

Whether you are unsure about a treatment plan or have a question about how your medications will interact, it’s important to ask as many questions as possible.

“During my hospital stay I asked about each medication I was given. I wanted to update my own medication notes so I would have the right information when I followed up with my primary care doctor,” says Linda. “I also made sure to bring all of my hospital discharge papers with me to see my doctor so I could ask questions about my treatment.”

The IHI and National Patient Safety Foundation developed Ask Me 3® to help patients and family members think about three specific questions to better understand their health conditions. Those three questions are:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

3. Do your research

When Linda received a new diagnosis, she immediately began to research the illness. Doing so helped her feel better prepared to discuss the proposed course of treatment with her doctor at her next visit.

“I think that when the doctors realize that you have done your research and want to be a partner in your care, they talk to you differently,” she says. “They encourage you to have a conversation with them about your health. My doctor also asks about what is going on at home, how I am feeling mentally and emotionally because all of those aspects of my life affect my illness and overall physical health.”

4. Don’t be afraid to speak up

Healthcare can be intimidating. Whether you have received a new diagnosis, are facing surgery or are just trying to stay healthy by visiting your doctor once a year, you are likely not in your comfort zone. This can make it a little scary to speak up even if you feel like something isn’t right. It’s important you always listen to your body and advocate for yourself or a loved one.

Linda recalls a time that she had to speak up for her health: “I had received a diagnosis and treatment plan from my primary doctor, but I was not getting any better. I decided to discuss this with my doctor, as well as a few other specialists I trusted,” shares Linda. “I thought, if I don’t speak up for myself, I’m not going to get better.”

The Joint Commission recently created the Speak Up About Your Care checklist to help patients identify ways they can advocate for their health and safety.

While it may feel uncomfortable to question your doctor or another healthcare professional, remember that you all have the same goal – to keep you healthy. They will likely welcome your questions and appreciate your interest in getting and staying healthy!


Additional Resources

The Joint Commission also created videos to help patients better understand patient safety and provide tools to help them Speak Up.

Speak Up: About Your Care

Speak Up: To Prevent Infection

Speak Up: Take Medication Safely