But thousands of patients are put at risk every day by preventable medical errors that happen in American hospitals. A U.S. Institute of Medicine report released a few years ago said that medical errors are responsible for thousands of deaths and near-deaths every year in American hospitals.
The University of Michigan Health System hopes to remedy that with a Patient Safety Enhancement Program that was introduced in 2000. It's meant to improve the quality of patient care by doing research on methods to avoid or prevent harm to patients when they're receiving medical care.
For example, program researchers found that using antiseptic coated catheters reduced hospital infections by 36 percent.
The program also educates and encourages patients to protect themselves from medical errors.
Here are patient safety guidelines from the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality:
- Speak up if you have questions or concerns. Select a doctor you feel comfortable talking to about your health and medical treatment.
- Keep a list of all the medicines you take so that you can inform your doctor and pharmacist. Your list should include over-the-counter products such as aspirin and ibuprofen and dietary supplements such as vitamins and herbal remedies.
- Be sure to get the results of any test or procedure. Ask your doctor or nurse how and when you can get those results.
- If you need hospital care, talk with your doctor about options. If you can choose from different hospitals, ask which one has the best care and results for your medical condition.
- Get a full understanding from your doctor or surgeon of what will happen if you need surgery. Ask who will be in charge of your care while you're in hospital and get details about the surgery and recovery. If you have allergies or have had a previous bad reaction to anesthesia, tell your surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses.
You can learn more about patient safety at the U-M Patient Safety Enhancement Program.