Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tips to Avoid Becoming Victim of a Hospital Error

CNN reports on Kerry Higuera, who went to a hospital after she started bleeding three months into her pregnancy, and was mistakenly given a CT scan of the abdomen after the hospital confused her with another patient, exposing her unborn child to radiation. These types of preventable errors are all too common. Some tips to avoid them happening:

1. Identify yourself to every doctor, nurse and technician you encounter by full name, date of birth and the reason you're there ("My name is Mary Smith, my date of birth is October 21, 1965, and I'm here for an appendectomy."). You might feel stupid doing so, but it will help prevent mistaken identity.

2. Also say: "Please check my ID bracelet."

One of the ways a hospital is supposed to confirm your identity is by checking your bracelet. "Of course, you should check your bracelet to make sure the information on it is correct."

3. Say: "Please look in my chart and tell me what procedure I'm having."

"Make sure the nurse is looking at your chart when she tells you what procedure or test you're having," says Ilene Corina, president of PULSE, New York, a grass-roots patient safety organization.

4. Say: "I want to mark up my surgical site with the surgeon present."

Hospitals these days often hand patients a pen and ask them to mark where they're going to have surgery. Corina says you should do it in front of the surgeon who will be with you in the operating room, and not just in front of the person who hands you the pen.

"If you mark it and the surgeon doesn't know about the marking, what's the point of marking it?" Corina asks.

5. Be impolite.

"If the nurse comes in and says, 'Are you Mary Jones?' and you're really Miriam Jones, you might just nod your head and say yes because you're too polite to correct her," Foster says. "Don't be polite."

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