October 2003 Bulletin
Patient Information from Your Orthopaedic Connection
Patients have important role in safer health
Ensuring patient safety is a national priority, and everyone
involved in the health care system has a role —including
the patient. Patients can help make their health care experience
safer by becoming active, involved and informed members of the
health care team. 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.
Here are some tips for safer care:
Pay attention to your health care.
If something doesn’t seem right, tell your doctor or another
health care professional (i.e., nurse, technician, etc.). Make
sure you get the right medications and treatments.
• Make sure health care professionals confirm your identity
by checking your wristband or asking your name before giving you
any medications or treatments.
- If you’re having surgery, ask the orthopaedic surgeon
to mark the area that is to be operated upon with his or her initials
on the day of surgery, so there’s no confusion in the operating
- Alert the nurse if you’re about to get the wrong
medication, or if he or she has confused you with another patient.
- Notice whether your caregivers have washed their hands.
Hand washing is the most important way to prevent the spread of
Educate yourself about your illness or condition.
Ask your doctor for patient-friendly literature so you can learn about your diagnosis, medical tests and treatment.
- Seek information about your condition or illness and possible
treatment plans. Good sources of information include your doctor,
libraries, medical society Web sites, pharmacists and support
- Take notes when you talk with your doctor.
- Thoroughly read all medical forms and make sure you understand
everything before you sign.
- If you are unsure about the nature of your illness or
the best treatment, consult another specialist. Getting more information
lets you be more confident in your decisions.
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.
- Ask questions of health care professionals.
- Review consent forms for treatment.
- Know what to look for and who to call should your condition
- Speak up for you if you cannot.
Know the medications you take.
Medication errors (i.e., wrong
medication, wrong dosage) are the most common health care 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 your doctor’s written prescriptions are
readable. If they are not, ask that they be typed or printed so
there is no confusion at a pharmacy.
- 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.
Participate in decisions about your health care.
You are the
center of your health care team. Work with your doctor and other
health care professionals, and participate in all decisions about
- Keep records about your medical history—which includes
any pre-existing medical conditions and illnesses; immunizations;
allergies, reactions and sensitivities; hospitalizations; other
doctors treating you; medications and dietary supplements you
may be taking—and share up-to-date details with your medical
- You and your doctor should agree about exactly what will
be done during each step of your care.
- 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.
Your orthopaedic surgeon takes patient safety very seriously.
He or she works hard to ensure that your health care experience
is safe and effective. If you have questions about your treatment,
please talk with your orthopaedist.
Content is drawn from the AAOS patient safety Web site. For more
information about how to play a more active role in your health
care, visit the Web site.
© 2003 American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons