Speak up, make your healthcare safer

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mary Ann Behan
  • 39th Medical Support Squadron commander
Know your healthcare. You and your family members are key to making your health care safe by being an active, involved and informed member of your health care team.

Research shows patients who take part in decisions about their own health care are likely to get better faster. To help prevent health care mistakes, speak up.

Speak up if you have questions or concerns, and if you still don't understand ask again. Your health is important. Do not be embarrassed if you don't understand what your doctor, nurse or other health care professional tells you. Don't be afraid to tell the doctor or nurse if you think you are about to get the wrong medicine or treatment. Don't be afraid to tell them if you think they have confused you with another patient.

Pay attention to the care you get. Don't assume anything. Tell your doctor or nurse if something doesn't seem right.

Notice whether your caregivers have washed their hands. Hand washing is the most important way to prevent infection. Don't be afraid to remind any health care provider to do this and it is also a good habit for you and your family.

Educate yourself about your illness. Learn about the medical tests you will get. Ask our health care staff where you can get information. Ask if there is any written information you can keep. Find out if there are any recommended websites or support groups for additional information. Read all medical forms and make sure you understand them before you sign them. If you don't understand, ask someone to explain.

Know what medicines you take and why you take them. Medicine errors are the most common health care mistake. Make sure before you receive any medicine or treatment that the individual involved verifies your full name and date of birth. You should be provided written information about all your medications to include both the brand and generic names, and any possible side effects. Whenever you get a new medication, ensure your health care staff is aware of your allergies. Tell them about any bad reactions you've had to other medicines. If you take a lot of medicines, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take them together. Do the same with vitamins, herbs and over-the-counter drugs. Hopefully these questions are familiar to you because you're asked every time you visit your provider.

Be active in your health care. Share as much information as possible about your health with your caregivers. For example, maintain an up-to-date list of your medicines. Pay attention to the instructions given to you by your caregivers, and most importantly, follow those instructions.

Everyone should have a safe and positive medical experience. Get involved with your health care and "speak up" to ensure you receive the safest, highest quality care possible.