It’s easy to think that patient safety is completely reliant on healthcare providers like doctors and nurses. But a patient is not someone who is there to simply receive instruction. Yesterday, Dr. Perlin and Diane Pinakiewicz spoke about the role of the patient in patient safety.  They are part of the care team and should actively participate in care decisions. Like Diane said, nobody knows more about the patient than the patient. In fact, a 2008 study showed that patients who are more engaged in their care, have better outcomes.

At our hospitals, we have worked to create an environment where our patients feel encouraged to speak up. One example is the bedside report.

Traditionally, when a nurse’s shift ends he or she hands off her patients to the oncoming nurse. This usually happens at the nurse’s station between the two nurses. At some of our hospitals, we’re changing that by involving the patients during this hand off, and asking the nurse whose shift is ending to give her report to the new nurse in the patient’s room with the patient present.

White boards in the patient’s room are another example. White boards are in most hospital rooms but the way they’re used varies. It’s common for our nurses to use them as a conversation starter by posting upcoming tests and procedures or anticipated day of discharge. Some are even asking the patient what goals they have for their care and listing those. These are all little things hospitals can do to let patients, and their families, know that their participation is needed.

In healthcare, the stakes are high and decisions directly impact the quality of the outcome. Still, healthcare professionals are human. We are fallible. Engaging in your care is one of the last defenses to ensure you receive the right care. Here’s one final example: medication.

At HCA hospitals, we have processes and technology to ensure the right medication reaches the right patient.  Our bar-coded medication administration (BCMA) system helps verify we’re giving the right patient the right medication (by scanning the barcode on the medication and the barcode on the patient’s wristband).  Still, if you’re a patient and your nurse hands you a white pill when you’ve been taking red pills, you should question that. Make sure you understand.

As consumers and professionals, we are all accustomed to doing our research and asking tough questions. How much more important is it to do that when we are patients?