How to be a Patient Advocate
Here are some guidelines for helping someone to get the best care possible from a hospital.
When a loved one is sick it is time to put other things aside and work hard for the care that they are entitled to. A hospital should be a place of safety but all too often, patients are in danger of injury from negligent medical care. Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in America behind heart disease and cancer. A patient’s friends and family are the first line of defense. Here’s what you can do.
1. Make a daily list of questions to ask the doctor and find out how to reach him or her by phone. Ask questions about procedures, medications, diet, recovery time, and so on. Without a list, you may have trouble remembering all of your concerns. Be sure to leave space in your list not only for the answers given to your questions but for new information you'll receive since those answers will inevitably lead to more questions.
2. Ask for copies of test results like lab tests, pathology reports, scans, x-rays etc., and keep them in chronological order in a folder. These will also prove helpful when it comes to deciphering medical bills and Explanations of Benefits from the insurance company which sometimes only reference the "Date of Service".
3. Be in the hospital room when the doctor arrives. This is very difficult since doctors arrive at odd times like 7:15 a.m. or right when you've stepped out to lunch or to make a phone call. Unless you have specific questions ready, the doctor will only stay about three minutes to quickly check the patient's condition.
4. Keep track of ALL the personnel (their names and positions)that may be attending the patient and with whom you have occasion to speak from the specialists on down to the volunteers. Use their names when you speak to them and make sure they know your name and the patient's name.
5. Ask the attending nurse to page the doctor if you miss him or her so you can ask your questions. If this doesn't work, ask the patient to have the doctor give you a call.
6. Help the patient receive what he or she needs and deserves. It is important however, to remember that hospitals can be dangerous places. So, if the treatment or service the patient needs can be more safely provided on an outpatient basis you should promote that alternative. Make sure the patient always has the phone, call button, and all supplies within reach. Make sure the nurse checks in periodically.
7. Be persistent in the nicest way possible. An occasional minor tantrum might help, but generally it's better to just keep asking and asking until someone helps you.
Though you may feel like screaming at the hospital personnel at times, try to remain calm, but firm, about your needs. Be persistent. Remember that the person you are advocating for already feels life is out of control so you don't want to contribute further to that feeling. Also remember that If your efforts fail and an injury occurs, the patient still has rights. Ultimately, the patient may be entitled to compensation. At The Sanders Firm, we have decades of experience protecting patients. If you or a loved one have been injured due to substandard hospital care call 516-741-5252 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.