Be Your Own Health Care Advocate

Aug 30th 2011

Recently we posted a two-part article with tips to prevent medical errors in your medical care. As a follow up to this article, we found an article on the Mount Sinai Hospital website that promotes many of the same tips, as well as a few new ones for us!

We encourage patients to be advocates for their own health care. To help you, we offer the following suggestions:

While you are in the hospital:

  • Bring a paper and pen to write down your questions for your caregivers (doctors, nurses, etc.) as you think of them and ask for answers to these concerns.
  • Consider keeping a journal if your health care experience is extensive, involving many health care professionals over a prolonged period of time.
  • Ask caregivers for their names and titles, and write them down.
  • Ask what tests and procedures are being done and why.
  • Find out when your doctor's rounds will be done and have a family member or friend there to listen to the information, to ask questions, and to talk with after the team leaves.
  • Before you sign any consent forms, make sure you read and understand for what you are giving consent. Ask questions such as what is the nature of the procedure and who will be performing it.
  • Bring a list of all medications you've been taking at home.

When it is time to go home:

  • Ask about and understand the normal or abnormal side effects of your procedure. (For example, how much pain should be expected?)
  • Ask for educational material on your condition, procedures and treatments.
  • Ask how much you should do when you get home and what you will need help with. Ensure that you, your family and your caregivers make arrangements for help.
  • Ask about your home care options. Find out exactly what home care arrangements have been made and ask for the contact name and phone number. If something is not covered, make sure you plan for the help you need.
  • Ask about your expected recovery time. Find out when you can return to work.
  • If you or your loved ones do not feel you are ready to return home, state your concerns to your caregivers and ask for some time to discuss these concerns in detail.
  • Ask about follow-up procedures. Find out what future appointments you will have and with whom.
  • Ask if you should have a follow-up visit scheduled with your physician.

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