What Can Patients Do to Improve the Safety of Their Health Care?

Northwestern Medicine
For Caregivers March 07, 2014
Patient in hospital bed with doctor and nurseIt is Patient Safety Awareness Week, designated by the National Patient Safety Foundation (NPSF) to help raise awareness about the importance of safe, high-quality patient care.

In the spirit of this year’s theme, “Navigate Your Health… Safely,” Cindy Barnard, director of quality strategies at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, highlights important actions patients can take to become a partner with their care team to assure they receive the right care at the right time.

Patients should always feel encouraged to ask questions about their care, and invite family and other visitors to also ask questions.

Asking questions can help make sure that you understand why different aspects of your care are important. Be sure you understand:

  • What is my main health concern? 
  • What do I need to do to best address it? 
  • Why is it important for me to do this? 
It is very important that you provide complete and accurate information about your medical history, including allergies, medications and any health concerns you may have.

You can help make sure your care appropriate and safe. Your health care professionals need to make recommendations and decisions with complete and accurate information that is unique to you. Accurate information can prevent the possibility of patient harm due to inappropriate medications or other treatments.

Please follow hospital safety systems to ensure your own safety.

  •  Prevent injury from falls. Please, ask for help getting in and out of your hospital bed, even just to go to the bathroom. Our health care staff wants to assist you.
  • Remind visitors and health care staff to clean their hands when they enter and leave your room. Hand sanitizer is provided for every room.
  • Help health care staff check your identification every time they provide care or treatment. 
  • If you going to have surgery, assist your surgeon in clearly marking where your surgery will be. 
Designate a family member or friend as your patient advocate. It is always a good idea to have another person available to ensure that your concerns and needs are addressed. We strongly recommend you designate a Healthcare Power of Attorney who can speak for you if you ever are unable.

A patient advocate can help you:

  • Keep track of your medications, treatments, and diagnostic tests so you always know what is planned; and Remember to ask questions or address specific care requests. 
 Depending on your condition and treatment, you may not always be able to make well informed decisions about your care without help. If you designate an advocate with Healthcare Power of Attorney, this person can help your health care team make additional decisions on your behalf if you are unable. The process is simple and free, and hospital staff can assist you if needed. You can download the form needed to designate an advocate from our website or obtain a copy by asking your nurse, social worker, patient representative, or chaplain for assistance. To learn more about how you can become a partner in improving your care, visit our website for more information. To view public quality ratings about the care provided at Northwestern Memorial, check out our Quality Ratings online