Sunday, September 21, 2014

Safe Patient Checklist

Many of us just accept uncritically what our doctors tell us—if we even hear what they tell us. That can result in disability or death. In their book, Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them, Joe and Teresa Graedon provide techiques for preventing the screwups.
The death toll from health care screwups adds up to at least 500,000 Americans annually. I don’t currently have access to specific statistics for VA doctors, but, given that they receive the same training, it is not unreasonable to believe that our experiences with VA medical doctors will likely be much the same.
Here are the Graedon’s recommended key strategies for safer health care:
  • Take a prioritized list of your top health concerns/ symptoms.
  • Ask the doctor for a recap to make sure you have been heard.
  • Take notes or record the conversation: you won’t remember everything you have heard.
  • Take a friend or family member to be your advocate and record keeper.
  • Get a list of all your medications and supplements so that interactions can be prevented.
  • Find out about the most common and serious side effects your medications may cause.
  • Ask the doctor how confident he or she is about your diagnosis.
  • Find out what else could cause your symptoms.
  • When in doubt, seek a second opinion.
  • Always ask your providers to wash their hands before they examine you.
  • Get [and keep a file of] your medical records and test results.
  • Keep track of your progress: maintain a diary of relevant measurements such as weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar readings.
  • Be especially vigilant when moving from one health care setting to another. Mistakes and oversights are especially common during transitions.
  • Ask how to get in touch with your providers. Get phone numbers or e-mail addresses, and learn when to report problems.
  • Inquire about resources to learn more about your diagnosis or treatment.