Tips on minimizing medical mistakes during one’s hospital stay

Hospitals are places where people go to get better and they expect to receive adequate care if a hospital stay is required. However, medical mistakes during hospital stays are tragically common. The Institute of Medicine reports that, on average, hospital patients are subjected to at least one medication error per day.

New Jersey residents should know that when a hospital stay is necessary, it is important to play an active role in one’s care and not be a shy, passive patient. It is important to ask questions and get the details of the care that will be administered. The author of the book “The Patient’s Checklist” details her personal experience with hospital errors and what families can do to stay safe when they or a loved one is hospitalized.

The author notes that when her 81-year old father went into see his doctor for double vision, he was given the wrong medication. Instead of first checking the routine test results to determine the cause, which happened to be slowly rising blood sugar, the doctor ordered a biopsy and prescribed a high dose of steroids to prevent surgery complications. This course of action led to steroid-induced psychosis and out-of-control blood sugar that put her father in the hospital.

During his hospital stay, she noticed lapses in communication between the doctors, nurses and specialists. She reasonably believed that the basic care her father was to receive would be communicated and coordinated, but this was not the case. As a result of her experience, she wrote “The Patient’s Checklist” to help people in similar situations take steps to protect their loved ones and themselves from doctor errors.

Some of her suggestions include preparing a checklist to monitor one’s care and medications, with details such as which medications one is getting, who prescribed them, side effects, interactions with other prescribed drugs, and information about the coordination between the patient’s doctors.

Despite the fact that health care providers have an ongoing duty to provide a reasonable standard of care, hospitals and doctors still make errors. A negligent hospital or negligent doctor may be held liable for these errors, allowing a patient harmed in this manner to receive compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more.

Source: PBS, “How to Make Your Hospital Stay Safer and Cheaper: A Checklist,” Jason Kane, Oct. 23, 2012