May 29th, 2014
We’ve all heard them at some time or another. The hospital horror stories from a family member, friend or even complete stranger. Wrong medications being given or wrong dosages. Complaints being ignored. Family members having to argue with care providers on behalf of the patient. And sometimes, the unthinkable - a hospital stay resulting in death.
Did you know that medical errors are linked to 440,000 deaths every year? Dale talked about this in-depth during an earlier radio show this month, even relating the story of a pastor in a VA medical center who was stabbed with a fork by one of the nurses! Though the patient lived to tell the story, the example underscores the problems with our health care system. In fact, VA hospitals have been in the news lately as allegations about treatment delays and falsified records have surfaced.
Interestingly enough, there are also certain times of year where you may deal with lesser-experienced staff. The full-time, highest-ranking workers usually choose their vacation times first and they pick the same dates we would choose: Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, spring break, the Fourth of July, nights/weekends, etc.
So what can you as a consumer do to ensure a successful hospital stay? Here are some tips from Dale:
- Visit www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare/search.html. Here you can enter your zip code to find the nearest hospitals and then select the ones you want to compare. The site provides a fairly comprehensive look at each hospital, including complications, deaths, timely and effective care and patient experiences.
- Check out Consumer Reports’ hospital ratings at http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/05/survive-your-hospital-stay/index.htm. You’ll find the top scoring hospitals in the country (sadly, none in the Southeast) as well as the lowest scoring. As Dale said, the difference between high scoring and low scoring hospitals can be a matter of life and death.
- Ask questions. You have a right as a patient to politely ask your care provider about their credentials. Where did they go to school? How long have they been practicing? What other hospitals have they worked in?
With some research and well-timed questions, you can help avoid potential hospital nightmares. It always pays to be informed!