Hospitals are supposed to place your individual needs at highest priority when planning your care and treatment. They are supposed to make adjustments where possible to take account of things such as your age, disability, gender, and religion or belief.
Great hospitals encourage their staff to listen to what patients have to say. Any concerns are investigated and acted on. Before patients go back to the same hospital, patients should ask themselves about the previous hospital stay.
Did the hospital provide safe care?
Was the care during a previous hospital visit helpful and not harmful? When patients go into a hospital they put their lives in the hands of their doctors and nurses, expecting that these professionals have all they need to provide excellent and safe care. For the most part, this trust is well placed. Sometimes, however, there are things going on behind the scenes at a hospital or doctor’s office that can lead to catastrophic patient injuries or even deaths.
A hospital, for example, might not be maintaining appropriate staffing levels to ensure patient safety or the timely delivery of life-sustaining medications. A shortage of nurses can lead to an increase in patient falls and other dangerous events that constitute medical malpractice. Safe care means that the hospital avoided injuries to patients from the care that was intended to help them. Evidence of unsafe care:
1. Receiving the wrong medication
2. Receiving unnecessary or wrong surgery
3. Receiving unnecessary lab testing
4. Receiving an overdose of medication
5. Receiving a wrong diagnosis
6. Receiving inadequate care
7. Experiencing a change in condition that was overlooked and not treated
8. Experiencing a complication
9. Experiencing an infection
10. Receiving inadequate discharge instructions
Hospitals should not have lower standards of care on nights and weekends or during times of shift change. For example, nursing work is punctuated by patient transfers from one environment to another, from shift to shift, or communication from one doctor to another. Along the way, your concerns may get forgotten and not conveyed to the next person (e.g., information given by a nurse to different physical therapists caring for the same patient).
Did the hospital make you wait?
Timely medical care refers to little waiting for treatment and services so there are no delays that can prove harmful for those who receive and those who give care. Timely care delivery is compromised, almost regardless of where a patient comes in contact with the hospital. From emergency rooms, to inpatient rooms, and operating rooms, patients experience the difficulties in getting timely access to care. Evidence of delay in care:
1. Waiting long in the emergency room
2. Waiting to see the doctor
3. Waiting after pressing the call button
4. Waiting for medication
5. Waiting to go to surgery
6. Waiting for lab tests
7. Waiting for therapy
8. Cancellations of procedures
Timeliness is compromised when patients needing immediate medical attention find themselves in overcrowded emergency rooms, or individuals without health insurance are delayed in accessing health care or there is a lack of available clinicians. Delays like these are too often the norm.
Did the hospital coordinate your care?
Patients should receive clear, accurate, and understandable information about all aspects of care according to their preference, including in relation to diagnosis, prognosis, treatments, follow-up, and support services. There should also be timely transfer of up-to-date patient information to nurses, doctors and other health care professionals.
Different hospital teams should work together to make sure your care is well coordinated. At discharge, the hospital should have given clear instructions on what to do if there are concerns, medical symptoms, side effects, and complications. Evidence of not coordinating your care:
1. Offering printed instructions and not explaining
2. Not scheduling follow-up appointments
3. Not providing information on possible side effects
4. Not offering help with aftercare
5. Not giving copies of your labs, tests, and scans before you leave the hospital
6. Not providing your discharge summary and operative report if you had surgery
Only the patient knows whether they received the level of information desired. Only the patient knows if communication was appropriate. Only the patient knows if information was understood and recalled. It is recommended that family and friends are involved in patient care and decision-making according to the patient’s preferences.
Did the hospital bill you too much?
Up to eight out of ten hospital bills contain an error, so check your bill carefully. You may identify a pill that was not given, or you know that the treatment stopped on Wednesday, but you was also charged for Thursday. In addition, doctors may request an abundance of consults to help them take care of the patient. If those specialists check on you every day, your bill is being quietly padded, even if those daily visits were not necessary. Evidence of billing too much are:
1. Charges for services not performed
2. Charges to correct medical errors
3. Charges for extra inpatient days waiting on services
Even if you choose a hospital and a surgeon that are in-network, there’s no guarantee that everyone involved in your care at the hospital is also in-network. The radiologist, anesthesiologist, pathologist, and even the assistant surgeon could be out of network, and you will be billed at a much higher rate.