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It's natural to trust medical professionals with your health, but health care is a complex system that involves coming into contact with many different people. Not all doctors will have the same skill level, and you may come in contact with other patients who could potentially spread an infection to you. As a patient, you have to be both an advocate for your own health and a responsible caretaker who can safeguard against getting other patients sick.
Preventable harm in a care setting is a worldwide concern, and although it's most often associated with low- and middle-income countries, it can happen in any health care system:
Preventable harm cases don't always result in death, but can have long-term adverse effects on a patient's physical and emotional health, daily functioning, financial stability, and personal relationships. It's vital to reduce the likelihood of these cases before they can occur.
Ideally, patient safety would be guaranteed by a health care system. But whether it's due to organizational or doctor error, neglect, incomplete information, or illness spread by other patients, adverse events can occur. Here are steps you can take to help reduce the number of these preventable incidents:
This is the most important thing you can do as a patient. Ask questions about your treatment plan and symptoms; prepare them beforehand so you know the right questions to ask your doctor. Get a second opinion and beyond if necessary. If you're staying in the hospital or getting surgery, ask questions about how they prevent the spread of infections.
If your loved ones are clear on your treatment plan, medications, and symptoms. Keep a list of all your medications and dosages, and give them to anyone you live with and anyone who may pick up prescriptions for you. Fully inform your loved ones of any conditions you have and their symptoms, so that they will recognize if your condition worsens.
This is always important, but if you're going to be at a medical facility for any reason during cold & flu season, get your flu shot.
The most important thing you can do for other patients is to wash your hands thoroughly and often, and if you're staying in the hospital make sure any visitors do too. It's the most effective way to prevent spreading germs.
If you are sick or have been sick recently, wear a face mask - they're most useful helping sick patients prevent spreading germs. Take antibiotics only when you need them, exactly as prescribed, and always complete your full course. Watch for signs of infection and get help immediately if you suspect you have one. While staying in the hospital, make sure your room is being cleaned and disinfected regularly.