13.5% of hospitalized Medicare beneficiaries experienced adverse events during their hospital stays during the most recent period studied, October 2008. An "adverse event" is defined as harm to a patient as a result of medical care. An estimated 1.5% of Medicare beneficiaries experienced an event that contributed to their deaths, which projects to 15,000 patients in a single month. These data should be frightening to all of us who will likely wind up in a hospital sometime.
An exhaustive report issued by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services details these findings. It is available on line or we will be happy to supply it to you. It is publication # OEI-06-09-00090.
We always suggest to our friends and family how to help improve hospital care:
1. A family member should always be present at the hospital to protect the patient's best interests;
2. Keep a notebook of key events and people who provide care so that the next family member who comes to stay with the patient can have all the important information at her fingertips;
3. Be kind and helpful to the healthcare team--after all, you want what they want which is a healthy patient;
4. If you see something amiss, such as the patient getting a drug not intended for her, politely ask whether the medicine is really intended for this patient. Help the caregiver do the right thing!
5. Remember that healthcare workers often work 12 hours shifts and that it is a demanding job--don't be picky about the small stuff but make sure the important things are handled properly.