Take Charge of Your Hospital Stay to Avoid Medical Mistakes

Studies show that 98,000 people die in hospitals every year because of medical errors.

That's a staggering statistic, but there's ways to make sure those medical mistakes don't happen to you.

Dr. Marie Savard, "Good Morning America" medical contributor, visited the show this morning to share six insider tips that could save your life on your next hospital stay.

VIDEO: How to avoid falling prey to medical errors that claim 100,000 lives a year.Play
How to Avoid Medical Mistakes

Savard's Tips

Try not to schedule your hospital stay in June, July or August. Those are the months when new residents start working and older ones move up the ladder, Savard said. She also said to avoid surgery on Thursday or Friday, especially Friday.

Find out if your doctor is planning a vacation and will thus be unavailable immediately after your procedure, although your doctor will usually inform you of a planned vacation, Savard said.

Have a copy of your medical records when you visit the hospital. Savard says she has a three-ring binder of medical information for herself and her parents.

Eighty percent of a doctor's diagnosis comes from the information from medical records, so it's crucial that doctors have that information, Savard said. In addition to bringing along medical records when you check into a hospital, patients also should have a list of medications, doses and directions.

Have another set of eyes and ears at the hospital. The presence of a "health buddy" can be vital, Savard said.

People who are staying in the hospital will be sick and vulnerable, and they will need someone to be their eyes and ears during their stay. The health buddy should take notes and pay attention to doctors' and nurses' instructions, and should watch to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

Savard says that many things can go wrong in a hospital. For example, the wrong medication can be administered or the wrong test can be scheduled.

They can help to prevent the wrong medication, the wrong test and incorrect procedures. Such vigilance cannot be accomplished by a single person. Savard said the health buddy should have a backup.

Learn your plan of care for the day. For example, each patient -- or the patient's health buddy -- should know his or her plan of care for each day, including scheduled tests, procedures, special diets or medications to be administered, Savard said.

Know the name of the doctor who is in charge of your care. Even though patients will be cared for by a team of doctors and nurses, one doctor will be in charge. Patients should know that doctor's name, office telephone number or cell phone number. Don't hesitate to call the doctor if there are any areas of concern.

Get a copy of the discharge summary. That document summarizes what happened while the patient was in the hospital, and outlines what patients need to do when they go home in order to continue to get better.

The discharge summary will also list any outstanding tests or results. Make sure to get a copy of the discharge summary from your doctor. You should also ask the surgeon for a copy of the operative summary for your files, Savard noted.

Patients who are prescribed new medication should talk to their doctor, nurse and even a pharmacist to make sure the new prescriptions won't interact with any other medications.

Web-Extra Tips

Ask for copies of important tests or findings. These include biopsy or pathology results, blood work, and X-rays. Savard says these may be important when you go home, especially if you weren't treated at the hospital by your family physician.

You should be actively involved in your care. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, taking part in your care is the single most important thing you can do. That means you should tell your doctor about all the medications you are taking and about any adverse reactions or allergies. If your doctor writes you a prescription, make sure you can read it.

If you have a choice regarding your hospital stay, be sure to select a hospital that specializes in the type of procedure that you are scheduled to receive.

If you are given a test, don't assume that no news is good news. If results are not provided, ask for them.

Click HERE to see other tips you can use to help prevent medical errors.

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