10 Steps to Protect Yourself When You Visit the Hospital or Doctor

H for HospitalEveryone has noticed. Health care has changed. You cannot rely on your health care providers to have your best interest in mind. This is the hard, cold reality of health care in America today. Doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants are required to see hundreds of patients a day.

To protect yourself, we have some recommendations. Some seem simple, even silly, but they work.

#1 Take an extra pair of ears.

Something happens to our ability to hear when a person in a white coat or scrubs begins to talk. We seem to hear a buzzing in our ears and we do not hear the advice given.

Designate someone to go with you to all physician visits. Instruct that person that you are relying on them to listen to what the healthcare providers are saying. This buddy system will work for friends or family. If you are married, schedule your appointments together with the same doctor.

#2 Take a notepad and take notes.

Try this experiment next time you go to the doctor: As soon as he/she walks in the door start writing. It will be awkward at first but it can become a habit.

You will find that the nurse or doctor seems to be more attentive to you, explaining health information in more detail, if they think you are writing everything down. And, you have notes when you get home of what was said and done during your visit.

My first time at this, I wrote down the time the doctor walked in, my blood pressure that he took, and the time he walked out. That is all I wrote but the doctor was so much more attentive, spelling medical words for me, even writing on my notes himself when I was struggled to get the name of the cardiac condition he said my mother had.

#3 Go into every meeting with a health care provider with a list of questions and make sure you get answers to your questions before you leave.

How many times have you come out of the doctor’s office and said, “Darn, I forgot to ask him about……….?” Go prepared.

Is there anything more important than your health? Make your list of questions ahead of time on the same pad of paper you are going to take notes on. And speak up! Don’t be embarrassed or intimidated. If you don’t know, ask.

Q and a pencilDon’t let the health care provider leave your room until you have the answers to your questions.

#4 Ask for your own copy of test results.

Don’t rely on the interpretation of a healthcare provider who cannot even remember your name. Plus, getting copies of the test results yourself helps you to better understand and know your body.

#5 Leave their germs with them.

Everything you touch in hospitals has germs! Always wash your hands or bring your own sanitizer. I even take my own Lysol wipes in a zip lock bag.

Ask every health care provider who touches you if they have washed their hands. This seems silly, but the infection rate in hospitals has skyrocketed and where do “superbugs originate?” Health care facilities.

#6 Ask to read your own chart.

Stethoscope and record bookYou have the right to read your own chart. After she checks your vital signs and leaves you, the nurse usually takes your chart with her. Ask her to leave it so you can read what all these people are charting about you.

This is a little harder with electronic medical records. However, electronic medical records make it easier for the healthcare providers to print you a copy as you leave that day.

#7 Research your doctors.

We research every important purchase we make, why not our doctors too?

Information is available online at www.indianapcf.com regarding malpractice claims filed against Indiana healthcare providers. And Google can help you learn where the doctor was trained, whether he is board certified in the area of specialty you need, whether he has ever had a drug or alcohol problem himself, or if his license has been suspended, etc.

#8 Just say NO.

Before surgery, use a marker or ink pen and write “NO” on the body part or limb not involved in the surgery. That sounds silly, but it might save you from having the wrong knee operated on!

#9 Carry your living will and healthcare directive with you in your wallet or purse at all times.

These are important papers. You never know when or if you are going to need them. Make them as small as you can and make sure you have them with you at all times. Even better, scan them and save them on your phone.

Designate whom you want making health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.

#10 Index card please!

Get an index card. Write all of your medications, the dosages, and why you take the medication. And carry this with you at all times. This keeps you from having to rely on your own memory.

Keep the card updated. When the nurse asks you what medications you are on, you don’t have to try to think under pressure. Hand them the card.

As patients we must take responsibility for our safety. These are simple but effective measures you can take the next time you or a loved one visits the doctor or hospital to do just that. Have you been injured as a result of medical malpractice? Every Indiana medical malpractice lawyer at Christie Farrell Lee & Bell has experience and can help you explore your options.