According to the Partnership for Patients, an organization run by the government made up of Doctors, Nurses, Clinicians and patient advocates working under the umbrella of CMS, the top 9 causes of medical errors in our hospitals are:
This year 450,000 Americans will die from medical errors in our hospitals.
Having an advocate with you, who is informed and understands the serious consequences of the following medical errors can save your life.
- Adverse drug events
- Urinary tract infections from improper use of catheters
- Central line infections
- O. B adverse events
- Surgical site infections
- Blood clots
- Ventilator associated pneumonia
Educated Patients can be helpful in each of these areas.
1. Adverse drug events – An advocate, with a patient in the hospital, can double-check all medicines prior to administration. Be aware of pumps giving medicines. Ask for safe parameters, and keep and eye on the numbers.
2. Urinary tract infections from improper use of catheters – An advocate can watch, and make sure sterile hands and equipment are always used when checking catheters. Encourage staff to remove catheters as soon as possible, as unnecessary urine catheters are a major medical issue
3. Central line associated infections – When a clinician is putting an IV line into a patient, it is essential that the following steps be followed.
- Hand Hygiene
- Sterilize skin, where line will be placed
- Use disinfection caps, or anti-microbial IV port covers
- Make sure clinician uses sterile barriers, Cap, Gown, Gloves and Drape
- Make sure you are aware of the risk of your patient falling
- Use Bed Rails, Chairs and portable alarms on high-risk patients
- Make sure high risk patients are put in rooms closest to the nursing station
5. Understand that a low risk pregnancy should NEVER be allowed an early, elective delivery date.
- As a first time mom, don’t allow yourself to be talked into an unnecessary C-section.
- Learn about Pulse Ox monitoring for newborns. Discuss this with your doctor before your due date.
- As an advocate, you can keep a record of how frequently your patient is turned, and repositioned.
- Ask the nurses to reposition the patient.
- Ask nurses to discuss pressure ulcers (bedsores) during the shift change report.
9. Ventilator associated pneumonia
- Elevate patient’s head to 45 degrees. This is very important in preventing pneumonia in patients on ventilators.
- Ask for a daily “ sedation vacation “
- Maintain patients oral hygiene
I have skipped numbers 7 and 8. These are important to educate yourself about, yet not really an advocate’s area of intervention
Other important steps, like keeping a journal, having your doctors contact information, knowing your medical history are critical as well.
This information, along with downloadable resources, is available for no charge, from
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On a personal note. I believe clinicians never intend to harm patients. They are amazing people, devoting their lives to saving others lives. I respect and admire many doctors and nurses.
This issue is separate. Educating patients about being safe and smart in the hospital is not coming from the inside of these buildings. There are clearly many reasons hospitals don’t want to let you know the statistics on Hospital Acquired Infections, staff not washing hands.
Medication errors. And they are, for the most part, getting on board, and doing what they can to make their buildings safer for us, the patients.
It is our responsibility as patients, to become educated. To advocate for our loved ones. To learn what we can, keep copious notes. This is not to become adversaries, no, it is to become part of the team working to get to zero by 2020. As I have said, I knew people did not want to hear the story of my child’s death 11 years ago. And today, we have no choice. If we, as patients, consumers of medical care, don’t do our part, which is get engaged, learn, pay attention, we can’t blame the hospitals for not fixing this problem before it’s too late.
And, patient education needs to come from outside of the hospital. It can’t be the mechanic telling you the status of your car, when you have no knowledge of automobiles.
1000 lives will be lost today.
Learn how to work with the staff In the hospital to keep your family safe, and take your child home with you, not find her dead in bed, as I did.