Hospital patients are vulnerable to negligence because their debilitated states make them less able to discern whether there is a problem with their treatment. It's estimated that annually up to 440,000 hospital patients succumb to hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) and medical errors in the United States. These two categories combined comprise the number three cause of death in America.
If you are a hospital patient, don't be afraid to ask questions about your care, medications, treatment plans and prognosis. Tell your family members to ask and intercede on your behalf should they notice anything unusual or potentially harmful.
Below are some tips for surviving your next hospital stay:
Pick the best facility
Obviously, in an emergency, your best bet is likeliest the closet facility, but barring an emergency, take the time to find the best hospital to meet your health needs. A level one trauma center will not necessarily be the best facility to conduct your kidney transplant.
Question your diagnosis
Diagnostic mistakes are all too common, and simply asking your doctors whether it could be something else forces them to consider other possible diagnoses. Up to 160,000 patients lose their lives each year due to misdiagnosed conditions.
Get a second opinion
If your diagnosis is serious and/or requires invasive treatments or procedures, there is no harm in getting a second opinion. In as many as 30 percent of cases, another doctor will offer you a different diagnosis. Reputable physicians will not be offended by patients seeking second opinions.
Limit catheters when possible
A catheter is a portal for infections to enter your body. Even when catheterization is necessary, see whether you are a candidate for intermittent catheterization, which may lower your risk of infection by more than 20 percent.
Let your physician know immediately if you experience loose stools while inpatient. This typically is the first symptom of C. diff, a particularly virulent intestinal infection that spreads like wildfire in hospital settings.
Insist on handwashing
All doctors, nurses, aides and others should wash hands with soap and water when they come into your room. Otherwise, they may expose you to deadly germs.
Did your hospital stay expose you to even worse conditions and diseases? If your condition worsened as a result, you may have a case to seek compensation.