Take Charge of Your Hospital Stay to Avoid Medical Mistakes

Dr. Marie Savard shares tips for a safe hospital stay.

June 3, 2010— -- 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, has 5 insider tips that could save your life on your next hospital stay.

Savard's Tips

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.

Inside your binder make sure you have a "Health at a Glance" form which should include these 3 important things: • Any medications you are on • Any medical conditions or previous procedures you have had • Contact information your emergency contact or "health buddy"

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.

Click HERE to download the materials for your three-ring binder.

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.

Click HERE to get more tips from Dr. Marie Savard.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events