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If the intent of going to the hospital is to improve one’s condition/health, then why are thousands of patients at risk every day due to medical error or negligence? Hospital personnel are out to hurt patients, but mistakes do happen; medication errors, misdiagnosis, and misjudgments have turned safe havens into potentially dangerous ones. And, this is a nationwide problem.

One of the most significant problems with today’s healthcare system is the failure to make safety and quality information available to the public so that you can make informed choices about where you receive care. Consumer Reports magazine recently issued their first-ever report on hospital safety. There were six criteria used in the research – avoiding infections, clear communications, over-testing, common complications, readmission after being discharged, and death rate for several conditions. Consumer Reports analyzed data from more than 1,000 hospitals in 44 states and gave each hospital a safety rating in each category.

Although some hospitals pose more risk than others, unexpected complications and deaths can happen at even the best hospitals; some well-known teaching hospitals didn’t fare as expected. The good news is that these results can help patients compare hospitals in their area to better define which one is the best fit. For those that do not have a chose, the report can alert patients about areas of concerns so possible steps can be taken to prevent problems. For example, if a hospital scores low in communicating with patients, the patient should make sure to ask questions. In every situation, in every hospital, there is always room for improvement, and you can help ensure your safety and that of your loved ones by partnering with your healthcare provider.

  • Monitor your medication(s). The Institute of Medicine estimates that, on average, there's at least one medication error for every admitted patient. Before taking any drug ask what it is, why it's necessary, what is the dose, and what are the side affects.
  • Guard against infection. Infections are usually the result of dirty instruments, contaminated hands of health care staff, or improperly sterilized catheters and needles.
  • Ask about the need of testing to avoid unnecessary tests that are not only costly, but expose you to radiation or other side effects.
  • Discuss anesthesia with the surgeon or anesthesiologist well before the procedure. Although too much increases the risk of complications during surgery, up to 40,000 surgical patients annually wake up in the middle of their operation because of insufficient anesthesia.
  • Discuss when you are allowed to move around before and after surgery. Moving helps prevent bedsores and blood clots. If you must spend a lot of time in bed, request special pads to help prevent bedsores, and "pneumatic" stockings that can help prevent blood clots.
  • Operations on the wrong patient or the wrong part of the body can, and do happen. As the doctor to mark the surgery site in advance.
  • If you sense that something isn't right, trust your instincts and speak up.

Let’s hope that those hospitals with poor safety profiles realize they can not longer hide, and all hospitals re-evaluate their policies and procedures for necessary safety improvements. And, remember, communication is essential for the effective delivery of healthcare. Shouldn’t we spend as much time asking questions about our health as we do when buying a car or new home?

Mark Bello has thirty-five years experience as a trial lawyer and thirteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice and Public Citizen, Business Associate of the Florida, Mississippi, Connecticut, Texas, and Tennessee Associations for Justice, and Consumers Attorneys of California, member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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