Patients Are Important Members of the Healthcare Team
Ensuring patient safety is a national priority, and everyone involved in the healthcare system has a role, including the patient. Patients can help make their healthcare experience safer by becoming active, involved, and informed members of the healthcare team.
Participate in Decisions About Your Health Care
Research shows that patients who take part in decisions about their health care are more likely to have better outcomes. The more information patients have about health care, the better they can make decisions about what is best for them.
Work with your doctor and other healthcare professionals, and participate in all decisions about your treatment.
- Keep records about your medical history and share up-to-date details with your healthcare team. Your medical history includes:
- Any medical conditions and illnesses
- Allergies, reactions and sensitivities
- Past hospitalizations
- Other doctors treating you
- Medications and dietary supplements (i.e., vitamins, herbal products).
- You and your doctor should agree about exactly what will be done during each step of your care.
- Know who will take care of you, how long treatment will last, and how you should feel.
- Ask to speak with other people who have undergone a procedure you are considering. They can help you prepare for what to expect and the best ways to recover.
Educate Yourself About Your Condition
Ask your doctor to give you easy-to-read brochures or other patient-friendly literature so you can learn about your diagnosis, medical tests, and treatment. Make sure you understand everything. If you don't understand something, keep asking questions until you do.
- Seek information about illnesses or conditions that affect you, options and possible treatment plans. Good sources of information include your doctor, libraries, medical society websites, and support groups.
- Ask questions of your doctor, nurse, pharmacist and other healthcare professionals, and choose a doctor, clinic, pharmacy and hospital experienced in the type of care you require.
- Take notes when you talk with your doctor and ask him or her for written information.
- Thoroughly read all medical forms and make sure you understand everything before you sign.
- Become familiar with how to operate equipment used in your care.
- Never be afraid to seek more than one opinion. It is not an insult to your doctor. If you are unsure about the nature of your illness or the best treatment, consult one or two more specialists. Getting more information lets you be more confident in your decisions.
Speak Up and Ask Questions
Your doctor and healthcare team want to understand your questions and concerns. Always speak up and ask questions if you do not understand what is going on with your care. Make sure you understand your treatment plan and your doctor's recommendations for next steps.
Ask for Help From an Advocate
Consider involving a trusted family member or friend in your care. You may want an advocate to:
- Come with you to doctor appointments.
- Stay with you in the hospital.
- Ask questions of healthcare professionals.
- Review consent forms for treatment.
- Remember healthcare instructions for you.
- Know what to look for and who to call should your condition get worse.
- Speak up for you if you cannot.
- Know your wishes regarding resuscitation and life support.
Know the Medications You Take
Medication errors (i.e., wrong medication, wrong dosage) are the most common healthcare mistakes. Know the names and dosages of all medications you take, and why you take them.
- Tell doctors and nurses if you have any drug allergies.
- Ask your doctor for written information about your medications and any potential drug side effects.
- Make sure you can read your doctor's handwriting on prescriptions. If you cannot read it, ask that it be typed or printed so there is no confusion at a pharmacy. Review the prescribed dosage with your physician before getting a prescription filled.
- Follow your doctor's directions and take medication exactly as prescribed.
- If you are taking multiple medications, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it is safe to take the medications together. The same is true for vitamins, herbal supplements and over-the-counter drugs. This is very important because in some cases there may be danger from cross-reactions. Please let your doctor know about everything you take.
- If you do not recognize a medication (it does not sound familiar or you have never taken it before), verify that it is really for you.
Know Your Healthcare Providers
Take time to learn about the doctor, team, and hospital providing your care. Questions you should ask include:
- Is your doctor board-certified or board-eligible?
- What is your doctor and team's experience in diagnosing and treating your type of condition?
Use a hospital, clinic, surgery center, or other health care organization that has undergone a rigorous on-site evaluation for compliance with established, state-of-the-art quality and safety standards, such as that provided by JCAHO.
- Ask about the healthcare organization's experience in treating your type of illness or condition. How frequently do they perform the procedure you need? What specialized care do they provide?
Safety is a priority for your doctor and the entire team caring for you. You can play an important role in your care by being an informed and active member of your healthcare team.
AAOS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians referenced herein. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her orthopaedic surgeon, or locate one in your area through the AAOS Find an Orthopaedist program on this website.