Errors in the hospital
As many as 440,000 Americans die every year from medical errors and infections contracted in the hospital. Combined, they are the third- leading cause of death in the United States.
Your best defense? Take charge of your care as much as possible. Ask lots of questions, take tons of notes, and have a family member or friend there to advocate on your behalf.
“You are part of the care team,” says Peter Pronovost, MD, PhD, former senior vice president for patient safety and quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. “This is your body, and you have wisdom.”
While some risks are beyond your control, these lifesaving tips will help protect against some of the biggest perils you face in the hospital. Make sure you never do these things when visiting someone in the hospital.
Don’t just pick the closest facility
In an emergency, of course, you want to get to the nearest hospital—fast. But if you’re scheduling a surgery or procedure, selecting the right hospital, medical center, or surgery center could save your life, even if it means paying more to go out of network. A 2016 study in the journal PLOS One found that patients at the worst American hospitals were three times more likely to die during their stay (and 13 times more likely to have complications) than patients with the same health problem at the best hospitals. Three key questions to ask:
- How many times last year did the hospital perform the surgery you’re getting? Multiple studies show that the more often a hospital does a procedure, the better the outcome will be. You are significantly more likely to have complications—sometimes fatal ones—in a facility that performs the surgery only once or twice a year, Dr. Pronovost says.
- Does the ICU have critical-care specialists? Called intensivists, these specialists are experts on caring for the sickest patients. Studies show they decrease medication errors by 22 to 70 percent and complications by 50 percent. More important, your risk of death drops 30 percent if an intensivist manages your care.
- What is the hospital’s rate of catheter infections in the ICU? Low numbers indicate that the hospital has good safety and quality management, says Dr. Pronovost. Choose a hospital that has fewer than two bloodstream infections for every 1,000 days someone in the hospital has a catheter.